Tag Archives: guns

One Small Significant Step Forward against Gun Violence

hugRabbi Tarfon taught: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but you are not free to desist from it either” (Pirkei Avot 2:16).

 The Executive Orders signed by President Obama is such an example of Rabbi Tarfon’s teaching. We cannot eliminate all acts of gun violence, but we must do what we can to advance the cause. Regardless of one’s stance on the Second Amendment or the effectiveness of these Executive Orders, we cannot turn a blind eye to the horrifying levels of violence and death that occur in our country. These limited executive actions seek to better enforce existing laws. The idea that criminals and emotionally disturbed people will find it harder to gain access to weapons of death is a good one.

 I wish we could do more, but that is not a reason to do nothing. Progress comes in small steps, an incremental march toward what should be from what is. We measure a great civilization not by its great monuments but by its ability to protect the weak within its society. The victims of mass shootings, the victims of urban gun violence, the victims of suicide are all testimony to how much more we have to do to protect ourselves and lift everyone to a better place.

 “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” says the Chinese philosopher Laozi (Tao Te Ching). We have a long way to go before the work is complete, but at least we are started on the path.

Grieving for our loss in the Washington Naval Yard, Where do we go from here?

It is truly heartbreaking.

The events in Washington this week have left me wondering.

12 people with stories of life and love were all catastrophically taken away in an incomprehensible moment of horror.  The voice of the mother thankful that her boy is now in a place where he cannot hurt anyone else makes the tragedy even sadder, if that is even possible.  Right now it is time to grieve the loss of those precious souls.  But then we must move on.

 We are at a crossroads of sorts and we can go one of two ways.  First, we can accept as sad fact that this level of violence is the price we pay for living in a free society.  These tragic events are bound to occur and we must accept that every 90 days or so, we will find ourselves mourning the loss of another group of tragic victims.  We will walk around with heavy hearts, and perform the rituals that we will use to move through the loss.  We will lower the flags, offer condolences to the survivors and then continue to live or lives as best we can. But we run the risk of becoming so callous to the pain and suffering that our hearts will harden and each passing slaughter will become easier to bear.   I am not prepared to accept this path.

 Our alternative is to recognize that this tragedy is not only senseless, but it is unacceptable.  We must rise and say this must end.  Human life is precious and deserving of protection.  We therefore must begin the conversation to try to understand why this level of violence persists.  What are the underlying causes and what might the remedies be?  Honest discussion and study needs to occur.  Preconceptions must be set aside.  We must search deep within our society and ourselves and grapple with the extraordinary level of violence that permeates our otherwise civil society.

 Certainly one issue is that of mental health.  Access to mental health treatment is apparently a major issue.  But access requires that we remove the stigma associated with seeking help and even more; provide adequate treatment when help is sought.  Other issues are the pervading place of violence in our culture, access to weaponry regardless of competency, lack of enforcement of existing laws as well as loopholes within existing laws that make those laws toothless.  There certainly is more, but this is a good place to start our analysis.

 In a country such as ours, these events affect us all.  Those who are victims of violence are on some level our brothers and sisters, regardless of their background; we are all Americans.  And if we do not stop this, one day the one who will be mourning the direct loss of a loved one might likely be you.