Sunday, November 15, 2015

ISIS and the NRA

Nine killed in Roseburg, Oregon.  Nine killed in Charleston, South Carolina.  Six killed in Isla Vista, California.  Twelve killed in Washington, D.C.  Twenty-seven killed in Newtown, Connecticut.  Twelve killed in Aurora, Colorado.  Six killed in Tuscon, Arizona.  Thirteen killed at Fort Hood in Texas.  Thirteen killed in Binghampton, New York.  Thirty-two killed in Blackburg, Virginia.  Nine killed on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota.  

That's 160.  And it's an incomplete list, a very partial list.  But it's enough of a list to make us ask:  Where is the outrage?  Where is the legislation?  How is it that we allow our politicians to be so fearfully controlled by the NRA and its minions?  This list of victims is every bit as devastating, every bit as horrific, every bit as senseless as the list of Parisian victims over the weekend.  All of them, ripped brutally from the world in acts of terror.  All of them, destroyed by ideologies woefully misguided and perverted.  If ISIS is the face of murderous ideology in the Middle East, nationalism run amok, how can the NRA not be considered its equal here at home?

FRONTLINE makes a compelling case, in the film above, that the NRA grew stronger and more powerful in the wake of Columbine, and then in the wake of Tuscon, and then in the wake of Newtown.  How can this be?  How can a lobby that equates patriotism with the right to menace and murder sway and intimidate members of Congress in this way?  How can it convince millions that their only protection against political greed and overreach is a semi-automatic, military-style machine gun?  If ISIS thrives on fear and a warped promise of freedom and divine blessing, the NRA thrives on much of the same.  And on it goes.  We wait for the next terrible event.  The next collection of photos on the nightly news.

Unraveling the mess of violence and hatred in the Middle East may be complex and difficult.  Protecting our kids from the NRA, protecting movie-goers from the NRA, protecting church folk in Charleston: it shouldn't be.  These things just don't happen in other places, other countries, other democracies.  

We should start by meeting the NRA in the public square, speaking moral truths to their financial bluster, offering a better vision of American democracy than their perverse one.  We should not wait for the next Columbine or the next Sandy Hook or the next Charleston.  For all the victims--for the 160 above and the 130 in Paris and the 40 in Beirut--we should do what we can.  And we should do it now.