In the wake of the latest rounds of senseless violence and hatred in El Paso and Dayton, there is a plethora of phrases that weave through the headlines and the debates and the conversations. Some of them have become “stock” phrases, tragically emptied of real impact through hauntingly frequent repetition; others are pregnant with the potential for actual change. “Thoughts and prayers.” “How long?” “Nine dead.” “Twenty-two dead.” “Remembering the victims.” “Background checks.” “Assault-style weapons.” “Warning signs.” “Courageous first responders.” “Dayton Strong.” “Act now!” “Do something!”
However, there is one ignoble phrase that surfaced after Dayton that made me so angry I’ve had to take considerable time to mull it over before writing or speaking about it. Our president’s bravado over potential action to bring some longed-for common sense to gun laws in the United States was revealed as mere smoke and mirrors when he built this fence of expediency around it: “We can’t do X, Y, or Z because there’s no political appetite for it.” That phrase, “political appetite,” sounded through his speeches in the following days like the wrong-answer buzzer on a game show. But as appalling as it is to hear so baldly spoken by our “commander in chief” in response to the crisis in our country, the sad reality is that “political appetite” is the driving force behind the collective inaction at all levels of government.
After the first wave of furious indignation passed, I realized once again that it is up to us, as citizens, to hold leaders accountable. We, the people, must speak plainly, with voice and vote and dollars, to let them know that this is not about political appetite. The groundswell of support for common-sense gun laws is fueled by a voracious appetite for justice, for safety, for well-being, for life. This is an appetite that crosses partisan lines. We, the people, are tired of the inaction, tired of that sinking feeling when yet another headline breaks. We, the people, are sick unto death—literally—of the fear that grips our gatherings and our life together. (I wept last week as our local county fair began, when I realized that my first and most urgent thought about the week-long event was, “Dear God, please don’t let anyone start shooting.”) Wherever we live in this great country, we, the people, must not sink into passive discontent; we, the people, must make the calls and write the letters and stand in the rallies and visit the statehouses—over and over again, until we have the attention of those who have been elected to represent us. Know the names and phone numbers of your elected officials. When they stand courageously for justice, safety, well-being, and life—celebrate and thank them. When they cravenly cower before the god of “political appetite”—let them know that your appetite for justice, safety, well-being, and life will speak find its voice at the polls.
Here are some websites that can help you find concrete, practical ways to communicate with your elected officials and to be alert and aware about the bills that are being promoted at both state and federal levels:
- 5calls.org–Enter your zip code to find the phone numbers and addresses of your Congressional representatives and Senators at both state and local level, a list of various issues that are front and center, and suggestions on how to address those issues in your call. (For my conservative friends, you won’t agree with many of the positions on this website, but it is still an invaluable resource for getting those calls made regularly and efficiently. Let’s not allow partisan divides on other issues to keep us from a united American voice on this urgent matter.)
- Moms Demand Action (https://momsdemandaction.org)–agrassroots organization working at local, state, and federal levels.
- For a Gallup poll on Americans’ positions on common sense reform to gun laws and gun safety: https://news.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx