Raging Against the Dying Light
“Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
(Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night)
I. Am. Outraged.
I am outraged at the sight of more dead bodies piling up across the nation.
I am outraged at the domestic arms race that has corrupted our country internally.
I am beyond outraged at the appalling racist rhetoric of the man who claims to lead our country, and those who support, excuse, encourage, defend him.
I am outraged that the people elected to protect us have their hands in the pockets of those who would harm us.
I am sick of waking up every morning to read yet more ugly, racist rhetoric flowing across the headlines.
I pray for the victims and their families, yes, but am sick and tired of “thoughts and prayers” issuing from people who should be doing something about the violence.
I am outraged, and you should be, too. Every person who lives in this country should be outraged. Our endlessly hard and exhausting work at building communities, our deep devotion to promoting healthy lives in freedom and justice, our thirst for beauty and joy, our hope in the Constitutional promises of “a more perfect union” and “domestic tranquility” and “common defence” and “the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity” — all of this seems shattered in the blasts of long guns, our hard work and good intentions ripped to pieces as so many frail deeds scattered and sinking fast across the green bays of what once was called “America, the Beautiful.” Our cities suffer the grave disruptions and evils of domestic terrorism, our shopping malls, workplaces, schools, churches, synagogues, bars, festivals, places once signifying joy and productivity and the peaceful pursuit of life”s work now turned into charnel houses. Our life’s work is swirling down the drain of gun violence and political selfishness.
Yes, Dylan Thomas, you are right: we must RAGE against the dying of the light in our own nation.
Bloodstains and broken bodies across the nation defile what once was a beautiful country. The United States currently has more guns than people — 400 million guns is one count I read today — and it leads the world by many hundreds of incidents in the evil tally of massacres of our own people through gun violence.
There is no excuse, no explanation, no justification. The historic, craven, self-serving mis-reading of the Second Amendment by politicians and interest groups hell bent on seizing and sustaining their own power has encouraged the most appalling body count imaginable.
This is not about being a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. This is about being a human being with any semblance of a moral conscience.
The stockpiling of personal weaponry is not an act of freedom, but a precondition for civil war. We must say this out loud. We are heading into a worse period if we don’t act fast and decisively. We the People have stood by watching the piling-up of this dry and lethal kindling, one weapon at a time, until a spark erupts in horrors — Parkland, Las Vegas, Aurora, Littleton, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Pittsburgh, and now, Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton. We tolerate the bloodshed as a necessary cost of freedom — without challenging those who say it must be so. We elect public officials who twist and distort the law in order to receive the largesse of those who profit the most from the stockpiles, the weapons manufacturers and the most corrupt of all interest groups, the National Rifle Association.
As if the pile of kindling is not lethal enough, then along comes the man with the can of gasoline —- the leader whose ugly, shameful, appalling rhetoric against immigrants, Mexicans, blacks, members of Congress, the media, anyone who disagrees with him — dripping and dripping and then pouring the inflammatory liquid of racism and hatred all over the stockpiles and twisted minds of those who worship him.
The late John Gardner, founder of Common Cause, once wrote that, “…the first and last task of a leader is to keep hope alive.” But in a society that has installed the opposite of real leadership in the White House and parts of Congress, our ability to have hope is fading fast, our sense of extreme rupture in our understanding of the common good, our belief in the power of a democratically elected government to act in our best interests is dissipating rapidly.
Last week, before the latest massacres by white terrorists galvanized by President Trump’s rhetoric, the leaders of the Washington National Cathedral issued an extraordinary statement condemning the president’s racist commentary, stating in part:
“Make no mistake about it, words matter. And, Mr. Trump’s words are dangerous.
“These words are more than a “dog-whistle.” When such violent dehumanizing words come from the President of the United States, they are a clarion call, and give cover, to white supremacists who consider people of color a sub-human “infestation” in America. They serve as a call to action from those people to keep America great by ridding it of such infestation. Violent words lead to violent actions.
“When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours.
“As leaders of faith who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over. We must boldly stand witness against the bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and xenophobia that is hurled at us, especially when it comes from the highest offices of this nation. We must say that this will not be tolerated. To stay silent in the face of such rhetoric is for us to tacitly condone the violence of these words. We are compelled to take every opportunity to oppose the indecency and dehumanization that is racism, whether it comes to us through words or actions.”
Have we no decency? A response to President Trump, July 30, 2019, leaders of the Washington National Cathedral
I just went to the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to get their recent statement on the same issues, and instead this picture of the four headlines currently on the website speaks volumes:
In their statement on Dayton, the bishops said,
“We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well. We call on all relevant committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to outline a reinvigorated policy agenda and pastoral campaign to address ways we can help fight this social disease that has infected our nation. The Conference has long advocated for responsible gun laws and increased resources for addressing the root causes of violence. We also call upon the President and Congress to set aside political interests and find ways to better protect innocent life.”
I am not optimistic. The problem is not just the president’s acute and persistent racism, dangerous though his words have proven to be. We also have the most scandalous situation ever seen in Congress in which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to move forward with any legislation that does not meet the political goals of President Trump, which means that Senator McConnell has blocked legislation on election security, gun control, immigration reform and a host of other issues that We the People must have resolved.
Americans should clean house rapidly and decisively. The hard work of generations in building a better, more progressive, more just and peaceful nation is deteriorating rapidly in a cesspool of hatred and venality that has little historic parallel. History tells us that politicians have always been deeply self-interested, but in times of national crisis and concern leaders emerged to work across the aisles and find ways to protect the common good of the nation. Our current political leadership, however, seems to have no concept of the common good, no sense that being a president or a senator means being a leader for all the people, even those who voted for the other candidate. Our current leadership is encouraging racism, white supremacy, neo Nazis and is contributing to the conditions that foster this explosion of domestic terrorism.
We can’t wait another 18 months for an election and inauguration to change things. We need action NOW.
Our country is dying; our peace is shattered; the slender threads that have held us together as a nation are tearing loose. We are the only ones who can save ourselves. And we can’t save ourselves by screaming at the television. We can’t restore peace on Twitter. We won’t make progress by turning away from the horror, saying it’s not our problem.
Domestic terrorism IS our problem. We need to name it. We need to call out those who encourage it. We need to confront the industries and politicians who arm it. We need to expose the institutions and places that cultivate it.
If you have a voice, use it!
If you have a vote, exercise it!
If you have a spine, stand up!
We cannot stand idly by while the light of our nation fades.
We must rage, we must rage, rage, RAGE against the dying of the light of our nation.