As noted in my previous post, I am going to handwrite this letter to the president, vice-president, to my congressional leaders, and to several others in our government. They will be mailed tomorrow. Will you join me in doing similarly?
Dear _________ (name here),
On September 11, 2001, just hours after terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people in the span of just a few hours, the leaders of our country set aside partisanship and stood united on the steps of the Capitol building, spoke together, stood in silence together, and then sang together. They came together not as Republicans or Democrats but as Americans who were mourning the deaths of thousands and to send a message of unity to the nation and to the world.
Nearly eighteen years later, we are in need of a similar statement of unity. From 2002 until 2016, just over 180,000 people have died in the United States at the barrel of a gun. These weren’t all mass shootings like we saw in El Paso or Dayton this week but…180,000. If you took the average of those years and brought it up to today, it is well over 200,000. That is the equivalent of 67 September 11 attacks. If there was another attack on our country similar to September 11, we wouldn’t be just talking about “thoughts and prayers” we would be taking action.
But because it is a slow drip of the blood of the dead and injured it has become far too easy to simply to look down or look away and not take action.
I am not writing today about new legislation, about background checks, or about bans and regulations. I am simply asking you to work with other leaders in our country to make a similar statement to what took place eighteen years ago. Can we all agree, regardless of political persuasion or affiliation, that this level of violence is unacceptable? Can we all agree that there is no place for mass shootings in churches, mosques, synagogues, night clubs, military barracks, schools, businesses, festivals, concerts, shopping centers, and so many other places? Can we all agree that this is not normal and not how the world is to be?
I am a pastor in northern Kentucky and I preached a message on this the morning of August 8, the day after El Paso and Dayton. My message was inspired by this picture that I have included for you. As I was walking and praying that morning before the service, I saw these handprints on the sidewalk made by a child in my neighborhood. I don’t know whose they were or if they were a boy or a girl. I don’t know the race of the child who made them or the language spoken primarily in the home. I don’t know the religion (or lack thereof) of this child. I don’t know if I would agree with this child’s parents on political matters. I don’t know anything other than this was a child who deserves a better world than what we have right now.
This child’s hands speaks to me and what I need to do to make this a better world and I pray that this child’s hands speak the same to you. You have the power to do something and make a difference. Can you just start with a place of commonality to stand with your colleagues and say, “this has to stop.” Can you draft a common message that is sent out in every communications medium we have as a country? It doesn’t need to include anything about policies or legislation but simply a care for the common world we live in and the hands of this child and so many others who deserve something better than we are giving them today.
Can you at least start here for our country?