On Sunday we prayed for the community of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in the wake of yet another mass shooting. This is the deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook Elementary five years ago. Many of you will remember the compelling presentation Sandy Hook mother, Scarlett Lewis, gave at St. Luke's in the fall of 2015. I highly recommend Scarlett's book, Nurturing, Healing, Love: A Mother's Journey of Hope & Forgiveness. Also, see the good work her non-profit is doing at the website, Jessie Lewis Choose Love Movement.
Since Scarlett's visit, we see that this form of gun violence continues entirely unabated. The trauma of mass shootings is made especially acute due to the chronic – I should say structural – paralysis our current political arrangements induce. These structures benefit small minorities of Americans with undue money, power and ideological selfishness – to the detriment of the majority of Americans.
Some young American's, however, have had enough of self-serving, political intransigence. A Parkland senior, who survived the shooting, was quoted widely in the press imploring the President and Congress to "Please take action...that results in saving thousands of children's lives." He spoke with the authority that only comes from actual experience. And now students are traveling to the state capital, Tallahassee, to meet with lawmakers to compel them to deal with reality. Many around the country are looking to these students to start a movement that can break out of the confines of our current politics.
As for the rest of us, we may not feel the call to become political activists, but as citizens in a democracy (governance of/by/for the people), we have an obligation to be concerned with the common good of the country. This starts with learning.
Two books that have been very educational for me – one a history of the seemingly distant past, the other an analysis of the confused present – that I will recommend to you are the following:
American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard – and Wedged: How You Became a Tool of the Partisan Political Establishment and How to Start Thinking for Yourself Again by Erik Fogg and Nat Greene. I'd give both these books my Yogi Berra "I Don't Want to Get the Right Answer to the Wrong Question" award. I've gotten to know the authors of both these books, and they do an excellent job in clearly showing 1) the challenge we face in overcoming 400 years of deep regional differences in becoming a more perfect union; and 2) how current issues are intentionally distorted to drive people apart.
Christians are called to be agents of reconciliation. So, whether by becoming better educated about our country and politics or by becoming activists – or some combination of the two – we must find our way into creating a new politics for the common good. ~ Fr. Abshire +