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There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
- Lin-Manuel Miranda, "It’s Quiet Uptown" from "Hamilton"
Events in Florida have again brought forth the unimaginable. A young man, armed with an instrument of war, slaughtered 17 of his classmates and teachers. Remarkably, what is unimaginable is that the unimaginable has become imaginable, commonplace and routine.
If school shootings are no longer unimaginable, they are still unbearable. Gun violence killed 38,000 Americans in 2016. Crime, domestic violence, accidents, suicides and mass shootings, each event represents shattered lives, unspeakable loss, and unrealized dreams.
Platitudes are spoken by our leaders, echoing the platitudes from last week and last month. Craven politicians look the other way and refer to inalienable constitutional rights. The decry what’s happened but do nothing to prevent future gun violence. They make it easier to acquire weapons of mass destruction and forbid governmental agencies from researching what we might do to prevent it.
What can we do? America is not Australia, nor Israel. Yet, stricter gun control is an obvious answer but our cultural love affair with guns defies reason. Rationales offered supporting the proliferation of assault rifles prove to be specious distractions.
A ray of hope arises from the actions of high school classmates of the dead and wounded who have directly confronted our political leaders and accused them of inaction, at best and aiding and abetting the arms industry through the NRA, at worst. It is my hope that their initiative, enacted on the widest possible scale, will move policy makers to action.
While one can understandably say, "What can I do to help out? I am only one person," we are unavoidably implicated in either maintaining the status quo or acting to bring about change. We should take as our cue these words, penned by poet Aaron Zeitlin:
"Praise me," says God, "I will know that you love me. Curse me, I will know that you love me. Praise me or curse me, I will know that you love me. But if you sit fenced off in your apathy, entrenched in – I don’t care," says God ... "if you see suffering and don’t cry out … if you don’t praise and don’t revile, then I created you in vain," says God.