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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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For The Survivors, We Remember

In two weeks’ time, three mass shootings killed 34 people and left dozens more injured. We were outraged and in shock, and for a few days we managed to sustain a collective call for new laws that would make our country safer.

Now, we are moving on.

This is our human nature, to search for signs that we’re going to be OK.

Right now, rituals around a beginning school year can be a welcome distraction. Back-to-school deals are everywhere, sparking memories of our younger days, as students or young parents, especially if we can ignore the reported uptick in sales of bulletproof backpacks.

Yellow school buses are back, slowing down morning commutes with their sputtering and wheezing as they stop and go, stop and go. Carpool lines are full of little ones fastened tight in rocket-sized car seats, and traffic slows to a crawl in school zones because we want to keep America’s children safe.

Hold my hand in the street.

Hold my hand in the parking lot.

Hold my hand, hold my hand, hold my hand.

Perhaps you heard about this. On Tuesday, Perches Funeral Home in El Paso, Texas, posted this on its Facebook page:

“Mr. Antonio Basco was Married for 22yrs to his wife Margie Reckard, He had no other family. He welcomes anyone to attend his Wife’s services. On Friday August 16th, Perches Funeral Home Northeast on 4946 Hondo Pass from 5-9pm.

“Let’s show him & his Wife some El Paso Love.”

Antonio’s wife, Margie Reckard, was one of the people killed in the El Paso shooting. She was 63 years old. Her husband told KFOX-TV that he and Margie were together for 22 years.

“When I met her, she was an angel, and she still is,” he said. “I was supposed to be the strong one, but I found out I’m the weak one, and she’s going to be missed a lot.”

Newspaper style would have me refer to them as Basco and Reckard on subsequent reference, but that feels harsh. It’s not how we talk about people we know who are grieving, and now we all know that Antonio loved Margie, and he doesn’t want to be alone when he has to say goodbye.

In two weeks’ time, a total of 34 innocent people were gunned down in three American cities: Gilroy, California, El Paso and Dayton, Ohio. Dozens more were injured. We can pretend that life has moved on, but the survivors of these tragedies know differently. So do we.

Most of us have endured the loss of someone we love. We know how grief is prolonged and compounded by the evidence of a loved one’s interrupted life. A head’s imprint on a pillow. Reading glasses resting upside down on the unfinished page. The swipe of fingertips preserved in a favorite jar of hand cream. These everyday things take on the power of spooks and spirits in the aftermath of even the most expected endings. They linger, and sometimes they never leave.

In the hour after my mother’s death 20 years ago, I gathered up her clothes in the hospital room and noticed the tip of one of her hankies poking out from the pocket of her jacket. My mother always had tissues in her purse for “messy noses,” as she put it, but she also carried cloth hankies, for herself and to hand to others. “For the tears,” she said.

I tugged on the tip of the wadded up hankie in her pocket and pulled it out. It was stiff with dried tears she hadn’t wanted any of us to see. Twenty years later, I think of how, in her last days, my mother was still trying to protect us.

If you’ve ever grieved, you, too, have your stories.

In our country, a growing number of people are grieving the loss of loved ones who have died because of guns. We must continue the fight for gun reform, but we can do more. We do not have to know these survivors to bear witness to their pain. We do not have to know their names to acknowledge that their lives will never be the same. For them, we can remember.

Will this hurt our hearts? Likely yes, but we’ll be OK. Hearts break wide open, and in that space something new can be born.

Obama: Reject Language And Leaders That ’Normalize Racist Sentiments’

Even out of office, President Obama continues to play the role of comforter in chief to a nation grieving after multiple mass shootings.

While Trump insisted Monday that video games and mental illness, but “not the gun,” are to blame for the two shootings that have claimed the lives of 31 people and counting, the former president condemned the refusal of those in power to do anything at all to restrict access to guns in this country.

“Every time this happens,” Obama wrote in a statement posted to Facebook, “we’re told that tougher gun laws won’t stop all murders; that they won’t stop every deranged individual from getting a weapon and shooting innocent people in public places. But the evidence shows that they can stop some killings. They can save some families from heartbreak. We are not helpless here. And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.”

While in office, Obama repeatedly called on the GOP-controlled Congress to take action to prevent further mass shootings. But even bills supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans — including Republican voters and even gun owners — were blocked by Republicans in Congress.

The former president also condemned the racist rhetoric and ideology that appears to have fueled the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday.

“Second, while the motivations behind these shootings may not yet be fully known, there are indications that the El Paso shooting follows a dangerous trend: troubled individuals who embrace racist ideologies and see themselves obligated to act violently to preserve white supremacy,” Obama said. “Like the followers of ISIS and other foreign terrorist organizations, these individuals may act alone, but they’ve been radicalized by white nationalist websites that proliferate on the internet. That means that both law enforcement agencies and internet platforms need to come up with better strategies to reduce the influence of these hate groups.”

While the former president did not call out Trump by name, he called on Americans to reject the kind of hateful language and ideas that Trump regularly spouts on social media and at his MAGA rallies.

“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people,” Obama said.

“Such language isn’t new — it’s been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history, here in America and around the world. It is at the root of slavery and Jim Crow, the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans,” Obama continued. “It has no place in our politics and our public life. And it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”

Published with permission of The American Independent.

A Glimmer Of Hope In the Struggle For Gun Safety

Late last month, the United States recorded yet another mass shooting. This one took place on a Friday afternoon in Virginia Beach, when a not-so-civil servant mowed down several of his co-workers at a municipal building. The shooter killed 12 people before he was shot dead in a gun battle with police.

That sort of atrocity is now commonplace in this country, too frequent an occurrence to command more than a few days’ attention outside the community in which it occurs. The U.S. has less than five percent of the world’s population, but we account for nearly a third of the world’s mass shootings. Another month, another attack by a deranged gunman in the land of the free and the home of the armed.

But this shooting was followed by something not yet commonplace but becoming more frequent: A few days later, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, called a special session of the legislature to take up gun control measures. That action not only gave urgency to his proposals but also put Northam under the white-hot scrutiny of a disapproving gun lobby — a place that most politicians, especially in purple states such as Virginia, had spent decades avoiding.

Ever so slowly, in fits and starts, the political landscape around the push for sensible gun laws is changing. Finally. The National Rifle Association and its allies are losing their iron grip on Congress and state legislatures around the country. Fewer politicians fear the wrath of the gun lobby.

Credit goes largely to the young activists who took the stage after the February 2018 massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 students and staff dead. Student leaders refused to settle for the “thoughts and prayers” that had become the familiar refuge of elected “leaders” too timid to push for serious gun control measures. The students marched on Washington, staged demonstrations around the country, took to television commentary shows and endured the mockery of right-wing talking heads.

Their efforts — aided by gun control groups such as the Giffords Law Center, named for former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), a mass shooting survivor and gun control activist — have changed the legislative climate. Last year, for the first time in several years, state legislatures around the country passed more gun control measures than pro-firearms proposals pushed by the gun lobby, according to The New York Times.

The students’ activism was also assisted by the NRA’s own self-inflicted meltdown, the result of years of grift and self-enrichment by its leaders. Continually peddling dire warnings of a pending confiscation of firearms by an autocratic government, the NRA has raised hundreds of millions from frightened gun owners persuaded that “jack-booted” government thugs were waiting to seize their weapons. But its principals used much of that money to support lavish lifestyles, and the organization is now struggling financially, according to published reports.

That changed climate has given Northam some room in which to maneuver. As recently as 2007, the Virginia Legislature refused to pass a relatively toothless gun control measure in the wake of a mass shooting that took the lives of 32 people at Virginia Tech. Republicans, assisted by a couple of Democrats, bottled up a bill that would have required mandatory background checks for firearms sales at gun shows. This time, however, Northam may be able to get a bill passed. Noting the shifting landscape, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who was the state’s governor back then, said Democrats now “run using gun safety as an offensive issue,” rather than trying to hide from it or deflect, as they once did.

That doesn’t mean that we will relinquish our leadership in mass shootings anytime soon. There are more civilian-owned guns than people in the U.S., according to the Small Arms Survey — about 327 million people, about 393 million firearms. We own 42 percent of the world’s guns, enough to guarantee that the havoc will continue for some time.

But thanks to some courageous young Americans, we may have found our way back toward sanity. Their future may be a safer place.

IMAGE: Emma Gonzalez, a student and survivor of the Parkland speaks at the first-ever March for Our Lives to demand stricter gun control laws on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Photo by Olivier Douliery/ Abaca(Sipa via AP Images)

Danziger: Don’t Get Used To It

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.