No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
--John Donne, 1572-1631
I've been reflecting on the awful events of last Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. So much has been said, by so many, in so many corners of the American consciousness, that I will no doubt end up parroting what has been stated by those more prominent or those closer to the situation who were thrust into prominence through no fault of their own. I thank God that while Nancy and I have had a couple of health scares with the kids, they've been safe and secure, and we haven't received that phone call. I can't pretend to imagine how horrible that must be. I'm not sure I'll ever have the words, if words are ever sufficient, other than to say that if the United States of America ever heard a conversion call for individuals and families to embrace their Creator and follow Him more devotedly, this was it. For those who would curse God and ask, "Why did he allow this to happen?", I would offer that He gave us all free will and unfortunately some of us choose to abuse it. As a result, dozens of families and a community--indeed, our nation and the world--will never be the same.
Two issues at the heart of the issue have been mental illness and access to guns. Again, a lot of people have weighed in on many sides of the issue, and I am in agreement that mental illness is an issue that needs to be properly dealt with in this country. I'm going to quote (in part) from a message board to which I contribute (I'm the writer):
"As a mental health patient (I'm bipolar), I can appreciate the need for access to quality mental health care. Over the years, I've benefited from medication and talk therapy to the point where I can live a relatively normal life. Is it easy? in a word, NO--but it beats the alternatives. I'm better served when I'm honest with myself and others around me regarding my condition. Does everyone with a mental health think as clearly? NO. That is where family and friends need to step up and be persistent advocates and protectors of the person in need of help, that tenacious "bug in the ear" for that person. Does it always work? NO. But that doesn't mean you quit trying. Ever. I've never been institutionalized, but there were times over the years when it would have been a viable alternative. Commitment isn't a decision made lightly or out of casual convenience. Further, the patient does have rights--and a whole system of legal advocacy of which they can take advantage.
"As for the gun issue--I imagine that there are those who read the third paragraph of this post and thought to themselves, "He doesn't get one". Whatever. I've never owned one; I'm not a hunter or law enforcement officer or competitive shooter so I don't really need one. Besides, I have Parkinson's and my aim is about as good as Gene Wilder's in "Blazing Saddles" ("See this hand?" "Steady as a rock" "Yeah, but I shoot with this one")" (The Trombone Forum, 15 December 2012).
This isn't an easy issue for me (or anyone else for that matter), but I need to go further on the second issue--access to guns. Many have directed hateful diatribes at the National Rifle Association. Indeed, their decades-long pattern of lobbying and today's instant communication had me expecting a pre-packaged-sounding response from the group.
Five days and counting. Nothing. Not a word, in the media or on their website.
This morning it was announced that the NRA would have a press conference on Friday. Can't imagine how this will go, but I have a pretty good idea how it will be received.
*--Choral setting by Roy Ringwald [date unknown]. We sang it my freshman year in U-M Men's Glee Club. A powerful bit of music, especially accompanied by organ.