From the get-go it has been an unwieldly experiment, this union of ours. Conceived amid grievances shared, forged in protracted battle against foreign lords and their mercenaries, it was launched as a practical necessity for the survival of a fragile, newborn republic.
A faulty foundation of human bondage and stolen land made it destined to result in friction and fracture and near-collapse some four score and five years later. The narrative of that time handed down to 20th-century Americans was blissfully straightforward: Four years of fraternal conflict wiped out the evil of slavery and prevented our wayward southern neighbors from dissolving our sacred union. But the great victory came in the aftermath as we labored to “bind up the nation’s wounds,” as Abraham Lincoln prescribed in the days before his murder by a secessionist gunman.
E pluribus unum. Out of many one. It’s the official motto of the nation, and while the modern interpretation has grown to include our absorption of people from around the globe in our melting pot, its origin was a reference to the coalescing of the former colonies into a single nation-state. It was the notion that — despite significant differences— we are stronger together.
That is still the case. And despite the appeal of this current president to the most craven among us, it’s still an ideal worthy of our devotion.
That said, the pace and frequency of mass murders using weapons intended for battlefield use may be the greatest test of this union’s endurance since Lincoln entered the White House.
Imagine yourself the mother or father of a Sandy Hook child who had been slaughtered in her classroom. Or the sibling of a slain teen in a Parkman High hallway. Or the orphan left crying in her parent’s gore in a Walmart aisle in Texas. Or the widow or widower left behind after the next one. And the next one. And the next one.
What are battered and bloodied partners to do when their other halves refuse to lock down their arsenals or even to have the discussion? Shall we just resign ourselves to being a nation of ritualistic wholesale massacres of our children and neighbors?
This is not a Second Amendment matter, by the way. Reasonable firearm ownership for personal protection can and should be allowed. And this is not just about Trump, although his racist rhetoric is clearly intended to incite those intent on targeting people of color in particular. He is guilty of widening the racial chasm and spurring on the crazies who hang on his every tweet.
But the truth is that madmen were mowing down innocents long before this president took office, and, sadly, they’ll likely do it again under the next one without dramatic change. When Trump has left the stage, there’ll still be large sections of the nation where the majority of residents refuse to halt the proliferation of lethal, mass-casualty weapons of war on our streets. And since he is clearly untrustworthy and without conviction to begin with, we all just have to move past him as if he were already gone.
The general hopelessness and malaise that now greet each successive wave of bloodletting is at once our national disgrace and our heaviest burden. What will it take to break the vise-like grip of the gun lobby on reasonable men and women in Washington? Americans across all lines must muster the courage to challenge their friends and relations - who apparently have not yet seen enough carnage – and talk to them about what this onslaught of violence is doing to us as a people.