The grief and anguish after Dallas

Preparing to mend Fort McHenry flag, Courtesy Library of Congress
What more is there to offer amid the voluble discourse of this sad week, when violence took the place of order and justice?  The United States: will the terrorism of Charleston and Orlando diminish them?  Will we descend to the habit of a shrug when children are murdered in our schools, when movie-goers are gunned down in a theater, when a cafeteria worker is shot to death in the middle of a routine traffic stop, when a sniper decides to channel his anger into killing police officers?

Sadly, we may grow indifferent if the spiral of unjustified violence continues much longer. We may shun the news for fear of having to look at the latest, outrageous use of quick-murdering guns. We may all cease to bat an eye at the latest victims, the latest place when guns were used to sort out human conflicts that deserved to be aired in the courts. And when that happens, we will have lost the semblance of unity that has kept us going until now. We will be just another war-torn country, with battle-lines too subtle to stay on the right side of.

Congress, endlessly preoccupied with the 2nd Amendment, has forgotten the larger purposes that, according to the Constitution, justify our federal government, particularly its charge to ‘insure domestic Tranquility’ and ‘promote the general Welfare.’  Will Congress act, in whatever ways it sees fit, to promote the internal peace and safety that Americans of all races crave, and that, by right, we are all entitled to expect?  Or will Congress forget its obligation to the nation, its members cravenly priding themselves on dedication to some lesser cause or party?

Changes in law are needed, but America also needs something more that’s harder.  Americans need to look into their hearts and examine whether they are living up to the potentialities of our civic culture, a culture that has allowed us to dwell with one another in a relatively open and unfettered way.  Americans need to recall the great civil tradition that has inspired generations to grow into a society where people who differ from one another nonetheless co-exist, enjoying ‘the blessings of Liberty’ and fitfully recognizing in one another our mutual humanity.  We have striven according to an Americanness that is deeper than either religion or skin.  This cultural effort will be imperfect always, but without it we will be condemned to grieve forever, anguishing over the most precious republican virtue lost.

Image: from this source.

4 responses

  1. This is the best written and most thoughtful response to the crazy discourse surrounding the place in which we find ourselves as Americans that I have read. You ask the essential questions.
    Thank you, Susan.

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  2. Indeed a very well written post that I enjoyed reading very much. . . . Yup, you are so right in that Congress (mostly the GOP) just can’t seem to see beyond the 2nd amendment. Good grief, Ryan won’t even bring that gun bill to deter people on the no-fly list from purchasing guns to a vote! . . . The NRA needs to change with the times–Ryan and so many others in the House and Senate are in its back pocket.

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    • We can only hope that a certain ineffectual style of party warfare is petering out. Unfortunately, Republicans somehow often end up in a reactive posture vis-a-vis the Democrats. They don’t seem to realize it’s possible to be constructive AND conservative. I wish they would stand back and rethink some of these issues in a creative way. All of our rights (free speech, free assembly, etc., etc., are bounded by other principles that they must be balanced with. I know smart Republicans can find a way to become the ‘can-do’ party when it comes to curbing gun violence–if only they want.

      The president’s remarks on what citizens can do about gun violence should be recalled:

      They are still relevant.

      Thanks so much for writing in!
      Susan

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