The Acceptable Time
Lord, you can help when earthly armor fails us;
You can save when deadly sin assails us.
--hymnwriter Matthaus A. von Lowenstern, 17th-century, Silesian
The “earthly armor” I’m thinking of when I cite this old hymn is the absurd range of assault weapons available to us under the elasticized-size-to-fit-NRA-girth.
The “deadly sin” I think of is our impotent and shameful inability to act to curtail and prevent gun violence in whatever small way and at this too-late hour that we can.
I’ve resisted the flashy option of embedding in this post that little video of earnest-faced celebrities saying “How many more?” over and again, while also naming sites of mass shooting--in perfectly clipped and coached diction. Then the celebrities begin a litany: “Eee-nuff!” “Eee-nuff!” “Eee-nuff!” they say. And I don’t disagree with them.
The problem with the video and these celebrities’ pleas for change is that it is old. I don’t remember which shooting occasioned it. But it’s timed out. And it clearly didn’t do any good, didn’t move any hearts (well, maybe hearts, though what do moved hearts matter, anyway?) That little video didn’t affect anything official, no actual action to address or stem gun violence.
Didn’t those celebrities say “Eee-nuff!” enough? No. It’s not that. Hardly.
I’m not sure whether this is a sub-conscious collective death wish or its exact opposite--a quest for immortality--but apparently we just cannot be reasonable about gun control in this country.
For the first mass school shooting I was in Charlottesville, Virginia, visiting my graduate school alma mater with my daughters. They were too young for the television coverage at our bed-and-breakfast. I distracted them with maps and sites to see: Mr. Jefferson’s academical village, James Monroe’s Ash Lawn, Monticello. Cherry blossoms, along with tales of Sally Hemmings’ and Mr. Jefferson’s progeny would fill our afternoon, though Columbine (that beauteous flower) was on my mind the whole day. And night.
But now, what? Yet another shooting? Which one? We’ve lost count. We’re hoping the high schoolers, marching on Tallahassee, will make someone official see a way to make official sense.
We’re counting on babes unarmed.
David Lynch could not have made this any more weird than it is. Maybe we deserve this shame. Of course, most of us will not even recognize that it is shameful.
In the church, the season of Lent started last Wednesday. The famous words, from the Hebrew prophet, Joel, are these: “Now is the acceptable time.” But in this nation, when it comes to gun control or at least the discussion of gun control, we are fed the absurd and choking pablum: it is too soon.
It is not too soon. And for those future victims (and there will be future victims, of course; let’s not kid ourselves, but we will; we will), it’s too late. Far too late.