Yesterday I was angry about what happened in Las Vegas and the unwillingness of this country to confront the problem of gun violence in our society.
Last night I was sorrowful as I read stories that personalized those who had died as more than a number, but real people with real lives, hopes, dreams. Someone I might have known from Church, or the gym or the house next door.
This morning I despaired. I despaired for what our country is becoming, a despair that began the day Donald Trump descended on his golden escalator to announce he would run for the Presidency on the GOP ticket and oh – by the way – Mexicans are rapists and criminals.
It seems like each month some new outrage assaults us – either that proposed by our government, like deliberately taking healthcare from people – to that imposed by Mother Nature and made worse by our environmental complicity, such as the three hurricanes that within a few short weeks devastated Houston, Florida, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Small children aren’t safe. Nine million of them have lost access to healthcare through CHIP. Now the Republicans in Congress want to use that as a bargaining chip to make changes to the Affordable Care Act since they cannot muster the support to repeal and replace it.
Music lovers aren’t safe. Ask the 22,000 enjoying country music on the Vegas strip Sunday night when a hailstorm of bullets rained down on them from fully automated rifles meant for battlefields, not parking lots turned into tented music venues. They will not be any safer should they choose to attend another concert in the future, because somehow having nearly 60 people die and more than 500 wounded is not the time to have a serious discussion on how we can resolve the gun violence that has swept our country like a never-ending plague. A plague that each year brings ever more deadly and sophisticated technical innovation to the gun market that further imperils us when it falls into the wrong hands.
The elderly aren’t safe when state governments can – without telling them or their loved ones – place them under guardianship care, take away their assets and their standing before courts of law to argue their ability to manage their own affairs, and land them in “assisted living facilities” where their estates are drained for badly managed care.
Families aren’t safe when they are one paycheck away from an unanticipated expense that throws their budgets into disarray and threatens their very ability to keep a roof over their heads.
People of color aren’t safe in a country that cannot get over its original sin of seeing them as sub-human due to the melatonin in their skin, the fact that their cultural references may be different, their religion not based on a blond, blue-eyed Jesus who in reality would have looked more like a Middle Easterner who would be travel banned than a man of European descent.
Free speech isn’t safe when the President calls for people to be “disappeared” from their jobs for daring to speak their minds on their personal social media accounts or for bending their knee during the National Anthem as a way of peaceful protest.
A free press isn’t safe when our leaders say only they speak the truth and everything else is “fake news.”
Democracy isn’t safe when Russia can buy Facebook ads so precisely targeted to swing voters that you must wonder how they could do so without “inside” help; when it hacks the campaign computers of both the DNC and the RNC then chooses to leak disparaging information about only one party while holding in reserve what it found in the files of the other; when it literally hacks into electronic voting machines in about 26 states to physically change votes cast.
The world is not safe when we renege on long-standing compacts to work with our allies to maintain a balance of power that keeps us from war; when we back out of agreements negotiated in good faith to save the planet from catastrophic climate change consequences; or trade agreements designed to guarantee market equity that benefit all parties; or non-nuclear proliferation pacts where the party being held to account has met the certification requirements but the other party intends to back out anyway because – hey – they just feel like doing it.
The world is not safe when the “leader of the free world” places no value on diplomatic solutions, uses deliberately provocative language to taunt and tease an avowed enemy and places no value on the eradication of 25 million human beings because he does not understand the concept of mutually assured destruction and the moral dignity of not being “first to strike.”
Yes, I am in a state of despair right now. I have never felt so worried for the fate of this nation, perhaps for the fate of the world. Call it Elliot’s “unfed hope.”
I despair, because all I can do to effect change is offer up a prayer I am not sure God will be willing to hear, let alone answer, because we continue to let the serpent whisper sweet nothings in our ear. Because we have failed to value the Eden He tried to give us and the worth of all the people He created to live in it.