The question posed to our group that stuck with me is one which will be important to consistently revisit. During her remarks, Paulina Olvera, a young activist and community leader in Tijuana asked, “which walls within us or in our hearts perpetuate the physical walls being built in our communities?”
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Sadly and ironically, as studies show, the more we get, rather than opening our hands even wider, self-sufficiency tends to foster selfishness. Affluence begets anxiety – rather than having too little to share, it seems we have too much to be willing to share. Abundance often turns in on itself, sometimes even to the point of greed.
I just needed to get that out there, in case you’re one of those who hears the word and automatically turns the page. If you think everyone who owns one is the spawn of Satan, go ahead, turn the page. And if you think anyone who can actually pronounce the word “control” is a worthless, bleeding heart nutcase, go ahead, turn the page.
For the rest of you, could we have a conversation?
If so, we will at least be ahead of the Florida state legislature who voted overwhelmingly this week not even to allow a conversation. Not even a conversation – because you know how dangerous it is for grown adults, elected to serve the common good, to have conversations. That courageous and visionary decision was made as the rest of the world was being inspired by the young people from Parkland, who had just survived the latest round of our homegrown, signature terror.
Heart-broken, outraged, chests pounding in breathless fear from their lucky or fateful escape, the sound of that brutal, battlefield machine still ringing in their ears, these students spoke with eloquence and power. And one teenager’s protest sign spoke for all: “Why are we being the adults?”
If you’re still reading, for their sakes let’s be the adults: this was not mental illness.
Recently mental health experts have been borrowing the phrase, shouted repeatedly at one of those high school rallies: “We call BS on this!” Studies show that only a small minority of mentally ill patients are violent. While many of our now-infamous mass killers were undoubtedly distressed, depressed, unstable, unhinged, most were not actually “mentally ill” when they started shooting.
If you’re still reading, for their sakes let’s be the adults: this was not a failure of protocol.
Yes, the FBI admitted they missed some signals, but the local authorities had already visited that teenager multiple times, and he still became a crazed gunman. Yes, on a YouTube post he claimed, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” but the first amendment is as constitutional as the second. Are we really going to arrest everyone who says something stupid on social media?
If you’re still reading, for their sakes let’s be the adults: this was not about background checks or assault weapons bans.
Yes, it hardly seems unreasonable to do a simple background check on anyone who buys any kind of gun, anywhere, anytime. It only makes sense to improve that system. One would think it would be at least as difficult to buy a military-grade weapon as a handgun – but the opposite is the case. Some avid gun owners even agree that if you want an AR15, you ought to “sign up and serve your country” – but even with a complete ban on assault weapons, anyone who wants one badly enough will find a way.
If you’re still reading, for their sakes let’s be the adults: surely we cannot believe that arming our teachers is the answer.
Yes, if every teacher in Parkland had owned a gun, Nikolas Cruz might be dead today – but he would not be the only one. If a crazed gunman knows teachers are armed, you can imagine who has the first target on her head when he starts unloading a magazine in her classroom. I heard an “expert” say recently that the most important thing we can do is concentrate on the first five minutes AFTER the gunman starts killing our kids. Really? Are we that powerless? Are we that ready to admit defeat, to concede that the best thing we can do is kill the lunatic before he kills too many of our children?
If you’re still reading, for their sakes let’s be the adults.
After so many of these tragedies it ought to be obvious that the problem we have is not a mental health problem, not a gun control problem, not a policy problem, not a response problem. But if we are talking like adults, we owe it to ourselves to be honest: we just have too many guns.
So, please, don’t just turn the page.
I didn’t say I don’t believe in the Second Amendment. I didn’t say you can’t own a gun. I didn’t say policies aren’t necessary. I didn’t say I hate the police or the military. I didn’t say laws aren’t important or can’t make some difference. I just said when there are 300 million guns in the country, anyone who wants a gun, of any kind, to be owned for any reason, will have one – no matter who they are, no matter the laws, no matter our preparedness for response.
Until we can admit the obvious, nothing will change. But when we have the courage to admit the obvious, adults acting like adults will be able to have a conversation about what we can do to let reasonable people own reasonable guns for reasons that make sense. That conversation will allow us to slowly change the mentality of violence, that has always only led to more violence. Until we can be honest, and act like the adults our kids need us to be, there will be no end to our madness. We’ll just have more…
The following is the Prayer of Intercession given by Amy Jacks Dean during worship services at Park Road Baptist Church on Sunday February 18th.
Gracious God, we pray this day for the 17 who have died. We pray for their mothers and fathers and siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins and spouses and children and friends and teachers - may they know your comfort and care.
May they know your presence to hold them close.
We pray for the one who carried a gun into a school and started shooting and who now sits in jail.
We pray for the SWAT team who charged in risking their very own lives to save others.
We pray for first responders who jumped into action to save the lives of those wounded.
We pray for the eye witnesses who have seen things they cannot ever unsee.
We pray for the almost 3000 students at that high school in Florida who were and are terrified AND for all of the students and parents and teachers across our land in every school who are afraid. May they hear your constant call: Fear Not. Though it seems impossible.
We pray for teenagers who are finding their voice and speaking their anger in protest. May their tribe increase.
Do we dare pray for our politicians who will largely be charged to DO SOMETHING! Yes. We. Do. Dare. Give them your Wisdom and Guidance and Strength and Compassion to DO SOMETHING.
Gracious God, help us to stop speaking and posting in extremes. Help us to stop thinking in "all or nothing" categories. You have made us with more creativity than that. When we hunker down in the extremes we get no where. And we need to get somewhere. Please, O God, help us function out of your Love, your Grace, and your Mercy.
May our "thoughts and prayers" lead us to action, may our "thoughts and prayers" call us to change; may our "thoughts and prayers" lead us to creativity; may our "thoughts and prayers" call us to listen; may our "thoughts and prayers" lead us to speak out; may our "thoughts and prayers" lead us to Remember.
(Photo by Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)
Again I am sitting in this little farm house on the banks of the Choptank River, just outside of Easton, MD. The calm is as amazing now as when I was here in February for a few days of writing. There is no snow today, but the water is glass. Hardly a sound breaks the still, humid air.
It’s as if all is well in the world.
The President’s most recent ban, preventing transgender persons from serving in the military, is apparently based on concern for the “tremendous medical costs” associated with these enlisted troops. I don’t know what costs are involved. It is difficult to explain complex subjects and difficult decisions in 140 characters. Some subjects (and all people) deserve a more thoughtful and detailed discussion.
Steven Wright was a dead-pan comedian. Never cracked a smile. Never altered his monotone delivery. And when each dry joke finished, you had to wonder why it was funny, or if.
“I woke up this morning… went downstairs… Someone had stolen all of my furniture… and replaced each piece with an exact duplicate of itself.”
This joke, which isn’t really funny, except for the delivery, reminds me of the current debate over health care.
I was away last week, taking some study leave to complete a couple writing projects. I’m holed up in a little farm house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My colleagues and I awoke the first morning to three inches of fresh snow. This fertile land was silenced in white, a gray steam rising off the Choptank River, which crawled underneath the lifeless cold a hundred feet away.
After a few people asked why I was going to participate in the Women’s March on Charlotte, and why was it called a "March for Women" as opposed to a "March for All", I decided that I needed to respond. So I have taken portions of emails I wrote in response to those questions and turned them into this blog post. I am very well aware that everyone that marched will answer the question differently. I can only tell my story. -Amy
It all went dark.
My eyes instantly began burning and my throat felt like I swallowed a flame. I was able to open my eyes just long enough to see a hand reaching out for mine. Rachel, a young African American whom I befriended on my walk toward city center, had one hand covering her eyes and the other reaching out. I grabbed on tightly and assured her I was there.
Just recently someone told me he had become a Republican after the 1976 election of Jimmy Carter, because the 39th president of the land had destroyed my friend’s life-long commitment to the other side of the aisle.
You don’t have to remind me of mortgage rates in those days and the Panama Canal and the Iran hostage affair. I was only in elementary school, but I remember the news and have read some history. Still, it always hurts me to hear people disparage one of the best men who ever held the office.
I didn’t say one of the savviest politicians, most conniving strategists, or best deal-makers. I said one of the best men to ever hold the office.
Funny thing, I think character actually matters for our national leaders.
It didn’t matter when I was a 5th grader that a Christian Sunday school teacher from Georgia was running for the highest office in the land as a Democrat. I probably could not have told you what party he represented, and I certainly had no idea what a party platform was. What I knew was that he was a man who loved God and cared for other people.
Funny thing, character was all that mattered to a naïve southern boy who loved Jesus and America.
Last night “the only man who has ever used the presidency as a stepping stone to greater things” spoke to an interracial gathering of pastors. I can’t remember who said that, but it’s a high compliment to the indefatigable 91 year-old, who is using his “golden years” to continue traveling the globe to eradicate guinea worms in Africa and advocate for peace with world leaders and write 29 books and lecture from Harvard to Emory and be a father and grandfather to 22 and build Habitat houses for poor Americans.
And then come home most Sundays to still teach his Sunday school class at Maranatha Baptist Church.
That character thing is actually not so funny, and maybe Americans ought to steadfastly demand it of our leaders – especially since “party” matters very little these days. Most Americans admit their vote is usually cast against one person, rather than for the other candidate.
Maybe Americans are looking for character, not platforms.
In his brief message to the New Baptist Covenant the Democratic ex-president inspired me again –not by his partisan politics, but by the content of his character. I wish I had that experience more often when I hear leaders speak.
Carter reflected on four years in office, when no bombs were dropped from any US military plane. He discussed the extension of a war in Afghanistan that now represents the longest military engagement in US history. He commented that most current political rhetoric seems resigned to admit a footing of perpetual war.
He talked of the oligarchy we have become, especially in the wake of the “stupid” SCOTUS ruling called Citizens’ United. Money is all that matters when “legal bribery” is the name of the game, not “liberty and justice for all.”
He remembered the 15-minute inaugural address he gave and the only two promises he made to the US people: a promise to keep the country at peace (which he did), and to pursue peace for people around the world, and a promise to strengthen civil rights (both of which he is still pursuing tirelessly). And he observed how inconceivable it would be in today’s environment for a candidate of any political affiliation to mention any of those words in a campaign.
They say some things never change. Unfortunately, some things do.
So, change your party if you’d like, or change back if you must, but stick with character. In the end, it’s all that matters.