In the Wake of the Florida Shooting, I’m Giving Up Hopelessness for Lent

I’ve never been very good at doing the lent thing. Some years I’ve attempted to deprive myself of something during the lenten season with varying degrees of effectiveness. Truth be told, I never choose to give up anything that would truly be a deprivation if I had to live without it. In fact, some years I’ve been known to only half-jokingly say that I am giving up self-deprivation for lent–blasphemous, I know–but I’m a coward in that way, I suppose. This year, I am taking a different spin. This year, I am going to attempt to give up hopelessness for lent.

Lately, I have felt myself slipping more and more into a depressed state about the political and social climates of our nation and world. I tend to be naturally optimistic, but that has slowly been leaking out of me. It’s been especially difficult for the past year–I’ll give you one guess as to why…

Yep, you nailed it. The psychotic circus that Donald Trump’s presidency brought to town has gotten to a lot of us. It has given us the feeling that everything is slipping away. I keep thinking, if we’ve reached the point where Donald Trump was able to ascend to the presidency, what’s next? It’s hard to imagine an answer to that question in a positive light. A sense of hopelessness has slowly begun to strangle my natural optimism. I’ve even begun to think of America in terms of a stage 4 cancer patient. I can easily envision this as the beginning of the end for the Great American Experiment. We really haven’t been on top for very long in the scheme of history. The U.S. has been the undisputed top dog of the world for only around a century. Compare that to the Roman Empire, which lasted more than 1,000 years before it fell. We forget how fragile a society can be. We seem to think America has been around forever. We also forget that America hasn’t been so great for large segments of our society. The Good Old Days weren’t so hot unless you belonged to the right group at the right time.

So it’s not so difficult to imagine the whole thing running off the rails. That’s where my mind has gone a lot in the last year. It’s not a pretty place and I don’t like going there.

On Valentine’s Day, we saw yet another school shooting in this young year already full of them. Once again, President Trump tweeted a response in the wake of a mass shooting–this one resulting in at least 17 deaths as I write this.

“My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in and American school.”

-Trump on Twitter 2/14/18

Last October, an even bigger mass shooting occurred in Las Vegas and 58 people were killed. Trump Tweeted out a very similar response.

“My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!

-Trump on Twitter 10/2/17

Ok, Mr. President. I can’t argue with anything you said in those Tweets. It’s what you didn’t say that I am having trouble with. You didn’t say it’s time we sit down and look at this problem and try to do something about it. 

Earlier this month, Indianapolis Colts player, Edwin Jackson, and his driver were killed by a drunk driver. That drunk driver happened to be an undocumented immigrant. Trump’s tweet in response to that tragedy had a very different tone.

“So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!

-Trump on Twitter 2/6/18

Do you see the difference?

Seventeen people are killed in a school by an expelled student who had a semi-automatic rifle–a weapon capable of firing a round per second–and “countless magazines” of ammunition, and Trump has no call for action. In Las Vegas, 58 people were killed and hundreds wounded by a sniper using bump stocks that let him fire semi-automatic rifles at near automatic weapon rates of fire and Trump had no call for action.

Thoughts and prayers are lovely. They can make us feel better. They can even have power to heal. But they do nothing to get governments to take action to prevent other tragedies.

Two people are killed by a drunk driver–who happened to be undocumented–and Trump fired out an ultimatum calling for immediate action.

The part of me that is drawn to hopelessness wants to give up. I am pro 2nd Amendment and I have my doubts about how effective gun control can actually be in America, but I am beyond ready to start talking about substantially changing things. I have rifles, but not a single one of them is capable of firing more than 5 rounds without having to be reloaded. I am not going to sit around anymore and think it’s hopeless. I’m sensing that there are other gun owners, like me, who are starting to see that doing nothing is simply dumb. It is within our power to make it, at the very least, much more difficult to obtain the capacity to fire almost limitless rounds of ammunition into crowds of innocent people. And we can make the penalties for having such capacities extremely severe.

Doing so would simply require more pro 2nd Amendment gun owners, like myself, to give up hopelessness for lent. If enough of us came to the realization, as I did years ago, that the NRA is actually the problem rather than the solution, we could break their choke hold on American politics and change the world.

At least that’s what I hope.

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