Historian Jon Meacham has revived the Augustinian maxim that defines “a people” as “the association of a multitude of rational beings united by a common agreement on the objects of their love.” Is there any common agreement on what we love? The answer can’t be no.
We seem hopelessly polarized and paralyzed when it comes to gun violence in schools. There is an assertion that our turmoil is a product of a godlessness that has begotten a culture of violence that has spiraled out of control. It suggests that the solution, in part, lies in arming more people to fight the demented and deranged who stalk our children.
Some believe that we have forsaken “otherness” to the vicissitudes of daily life and that has produced a culture of self-righteous arrogance and ignorance, resulting in a “might makes right” credo.
As George W. Bush said recently, “We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty … argument turns too easily into animosity.”
Through all our blathering, lamenting, blaming, prayerful thoughts and soulful sorrow, the number of children slaughtered attending school allegedly exceeds the number of Americans killed in military action.
Can’t there at least be common agreement on this object of our love? Can we not say together that all of us have a common love for innocent children? Shouldn’t that, at a minimum, bring us to common ground without delay or hedging?
President Bush, in the same speech, noted that, “The American spirit does not say we shall manage or we shall make the best of it, it says we shall overcome.” We must overcome these catastrophic tragedies with categorical action, now.
Our action must be comprehensive to be consequential. Let’s begin with this simple premise: Every right that is asserted comes with a responsibility. Freedom and duty are two sides of the same coin.
If you want to exercise the right to own a gun, you must be accountable for its use, which includes control of who has access to it. If a child uses a gun to perpetrate a crime, the owner of the weapon should be equally accountable to the consequence of the weapon’s misuse — no exceptions, no excuses.
Even though its preventative value may be limited, comprehensive background checks on any exchange of a weapon must be conducted. No gun-show loopholes, no private exchange without a check — no exceptions. There is no foolproof way to keep a gun from those who should not possess it, but we can do better.
We know where the pool of mass shooters comes from. Almost to a person, the issue of domestic violence has played a part in their lives.
That means having comprehensive and swift interventions for those who have endured, as well as perpetrated, domestic violence. Confiscating weapons and providing mental-health counseling are obvious first steps.
Resources, meaning lots of money, i.e. tax dollars, must be allocated to every school to make them as safe as possible. Reducing points of entry, technological interventions to affect access, staffing supports as the school sees fit, must be provided as a package of preventative measures.
Crucial is increasing the availability of counselors and training for educators, including support staff, to become more aware of the signs of distress in children who are distraught, being bullied and/or becoming more isolated.
In summary, we have a common love that should bring us to common ground with common-sense interventions.
The duty that freedom begets is not whispering. Dead children are screaming, “Do something, now!” Rational beings must come together and act.