Governing by prayer and action

Published 11:09 pm Friday, December 4, 2015

Congress is departing shortly for the holidays, but there’s still lots to do, such as keep the government running and, conversely, avoid a shutdown. They also need to revamp the nation’s energy laws and undertake a host of actions that require cooperation and bipartisan support.
But instead of proposing a positive budget, Republicans riddled it with a series of amendments undoing environmental actions and banking regulations, attacking the Affordable Care Act (again), causing the Democrats to expend energy to keep the good from being undone.
One of the issues Congress is not dealing with is gun safety — making us safer from shooters. Past efforts to pass sensible gun safety protection — that both parties agreed upon in the wake of Sandy Hook — were killed by the NRA, which raised the specter of the Second Amendment being trampled by safety-starved citizens.
Instead, Republicans in Congress focused on how they were ready to shut down the government over funding Planned Parenthood, rather than focus on how to prevent madmen like Robert Dear from owning a military-style firearm by going through a better background check.
Now comes the San Bernardino shootings, where the finger has been pointed at the shooters’ Muslim faith, ignoring that the Planned Parenthood shooter, Robert Dear, spent much of his time invoking Christ’s name and Christian scripture before embarking on his mass murder.
What we haven’t faced and haven’t come to terms with is that the San Bernardino shooting was the 355th mass shooting of 2015. Finger-pointing, rationalizations and fear-mongering don’t address that fact.
Twitter’s genius, and service, is capturing in a few words the wisdom residing in individual members of the public.
Kumail Nanjiani, an American actor on HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” tweeted “God I hope these shooters have boring names.” I think we were all hoping their names were boring; we know how to cope with “Dear,” but wince at what we know is coming if the name is more exotic.
Sarah Cooke Wolfe, an independent writer in Minnesota, sounded a somber note: “In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”
Even as The New York Times published data showing our mass shootings exceed one per day, National Journal columnist Ron Fournier underscored both the aching normality of mass killings, and our knee-jerk responses with this tweet: “BREAKING: (blank), a tragic situation leaving (blank) dead and, with no known motive and few details, still confirms my opinion about (blank).” Indeed, we had two mass shootings on the same day — one in San Bernardino, the other, less-noticed, in Savannah, Georgia.
“There are steps we can take to make Americans safer,” President Obama said. “We should never think this is something that just happens in the normal course of events.” It is the 18th time Obama addressed the nation on a mass shooting. I have to ask, are we caving? Are we passively accepting mass murders as “the normal course” of events?
This “normal course of events” also includes finger-pointing, exploiting the public’s fears, and putting vote-getting goals ahead of the public’s safety. A realistic look at our situation shows that the ever-increasing radical agenda of Republican candidates aims at stoking fears of Muslims, rather than taking even minimal steps that will ensure our safety.
The Republicans are veering, like a car out of control, to ever-increasing radical rhetoric and bluster, while finding themselves incapable of taking the most minor actions to keep the public safe. In Congress, Republicans even blocked the No-Fly List from being included in background checks.
Indeed, the response to the San Bernardino tragedy clarifies the difference between the Democratic candidates and the Republican candidates for president. All three Democratic candidates called for action, addressing the issue of gun safety and gun violence. Hillary Clinton, who was speaking out against the gun lobby as the San Bernardino tragedy unfolded, tweeted, “I refuse to accept this as normal. We must take action to stop gun violence now.”
Republicans all offered a variation of “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims,” some including the first responders. Donald Trump didn’t mention thoughts or prayers, but tweeted, “good luck to law enforcement and God bless. This is when our police are so appreciated!” I don’t think he recognized the irony of that.
We need “to make it a little harder” for individuals to access weapons, Obama said, “Not impossible, but harder.” We need to take action. Maybe, even more than tweaking gun laws, we need to change our self-created atmosphere of intolerance and hate that is fueling unstable minds and evil perversions of faith.
“Here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own” is an oft-repeated phrase. It’s not a cliche. God can’t make us change. We must stop supporting those who invoke fear about good people of other faiths. We must insist our leaders put the public safety above the tactics of fear, grubbing for votes or courting wealthy donors as friends.
Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News.

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