Like you I have been trying to get hold of my emotions and order my thoughts in the wake of the atrocity last week in Tucson. Indeed, it was not a tragedy, in which a well-intentioned person brings ruin upon him or herself by actions with unforeseen consequences. It was an atrocity – an attack not only on persons but on the order of morality and society. In calling it a tragedy, we focus on the deranged acts of an individual rather than on the effects of the injury and the steps needed for collective reconciliation. It is not merely healing that we need, but reconciliation. To use the word healing is to say that we need only return to where we were. Reconciliation requires that we name the injuries, for they are many; that we find ways to talk with each other about the fear and violence that grips us, the gun industry that seeks to flood every part of American life with weapons, the isolated and dangerous misery of the mentally ill, and much more that is on our hearts; and then establish ways to repair the damage and prevent its recurrence.
We will hear much in the days to come to distract us from the fact that we are the most violent industrial democracy in the world, with 30,000 gun deaths each year and some 60,000 gun injuries. We must ask how we can take reasonable and effective steps to curb this carnage. To say that everyone must arm him or herself is to turn our backs on the very reason for society and government. This is the pathway opened up by the Supreme Court’s Heller decision – a politicized 5 to 4 decision overturning the long-held precedent that the Second Amendment is to serve the existence of a “well regulated militia,” not a sheer individual right to “bear arms.” Down this path lies Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and every other failed state.
The burden of this violence is a shadow over our land and over each of us. Each of us is seeking ways to embody the reconciling spirit that seeks the common good. Each of us is struggling to support institutional means to create a society and governmental system that can, in the words of the US Constitution, ”form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” If we can only work toward those ends the deaths and injuries in Tucson will not have been in vain.
Your own reflections are much appreciated.