Recently I’ve heard comparisons between the March For Our Lives event in Washington DC and the anti-Vietnam war demonstrations that took place in the 1960’s. People were so inspired by the positive energy of the students in Washington that many wondered if the event might actually be the turning point we’ve been waiting for… one that will finally result in common sense gun legislation, in the same way anti-war sentiment 50 years ago finally resulted in the end of US involvement in Vietnam. I would love for this to be true, but unfortunately I cannot share their optimism. I remember there being a very palpable anger in the 1960’s that just isn’t in the air today.
The Vietnam War was indeed a major source for our nation’s outcry as it raged without end in sight. Every day there were caskets arriving home and Americans began to question the politics that were sending our boys into battle. There was no quieting the public unrest growing in the 1960’s. The unrest turned to anger and the anger turned to protests. The protests were loud, often and well-attended. In the end, our anger over the Vietnam War united us and brought our country to action. Today, our anger over mass shootings only divides us and forces our country to an impasse.
Compared to the Vietnam war (which was continuous and televised daily), our shootings are isolated events. And while we’re grateful that mass shootings do not happen daily, the isolated nature of these shootings never fully launches the motivational force of our anger. We become angry to an effective level, but only for a little while. We have protests and marches, but only for a single day. Then before anyone knows it, the dialogue about our latest shooting is overshadowed by fresher stories in the media. Those who aren’t personally affected by the shooting simply return to their normal lives until another ‘law abiding gun owner’ transforms into the next mass shooter, at which point Americans will grow angry again… for a little while. This is not how we did things in the 1960’s, and it’s why I personally don’t believe the March For Our Lives Events – as admirable as they were – will produce a desired result as the Anti-War sentiment did in the 1960’s.
There’s also another reason.
We’ve had so many shootings in the USA that we’ve become automatically preconditioned to them. We’re already accustomed to how they make us feel that we’ve grown calloused, and each new shooting seems less shocking than the one before it. We experience anger, but it’s almost ritual and passes quickly. We’ve already judged shootings to be without solution just as we’ve judged ourselves powerless to stop them. This can only negatively affect our collective will to finding real solutions. It makes it even tougher when one political party — the Republican Party — lives in a state of denial that there’s even a problem at all, and essentially asserts that gun violence is the price we must pay for our constitutional rights as Americans.
That’s hogwash of course.
What we must remember is this: All we’ll ever ultimately have in America are the choices we make at the polls. It’s the power we have as Americans to shape the destiny of our country, and it’s a power which we must never waste or wield carelessly. If you find yourself dissatisfied with the Republican vision of Gun Rights in America, please consider the Democratic Ticket in 2018. Democrats do not believe that the solution to our gun problems is to put more guns with greater firepower into the hands of ordinary citizens. Democrats do not wish to arm our teachers and transform our school buildings into hardened, defensive bunkers. Democrats do not insist that laws which protect bump stocks, high capacity magazines and AR-15 Assault Style weapons are necessary for living without fear in America.
Each of us must ask one simple question before we vote, then give an honest answer:
What is my vision of America?