I don’t like guns and I particularly dislike violence. Not in fictional movies or in real life. Death, murder and variations thereof scare me. So when there are mass murders in the U.S. every few months, usually at a school, I immediately wonder – what is the price of making it just a bit more difficult to buy an assault weapon or even a handgun.
There are many who disagree and I get it. It’s nothing for me to give up a bit of gun rights because I want nothing to do with them. Still, that doesn’t mean my viewpoint is wrong. For instance, I’d be happy to pay more taxes in exchange for universal health care. I already have health care so one could argue, using that line of reasoning, why should I volunteer to pay for it for someone else? Especially when it hasn’t been proven that it will absolutely reduce costs or save lives. Well, because it’s the right thing to do. And it has been proven theoretically.
In the case of guns, no theoretical proof is necessary to argue that at the very least 1 or maybe even 2 lives will be saved if we institute some sort of more stringent rules. It is self-evident the way one can assume a peach left out in the sun on a sweltering day will eventually rot. Well, I don’t know about you but 1 or 2 lives spared from a barrage of bullets are more than enough for me. Just as saving one or two more people from death due to some terrible disease because they can now afford to go to a doctor is enough for me to fork over just a little bit more to Uncle Sam.
This brings up an interesting question – how much time do I want to spend with those who have opposing points of view? I don’t mean in public discourse, at a party or among members of my extended family. Rather I wonder – what is the deal breaker for including people in our close-knit circles? Or even your extended perimeter? I mean, as the victims of the latest shooter in Oregon might now say to us – “your time is limited. Make the most of it. “
So I ask again – how many hours, days, weeks or years do you want to expend on those whose viewpoints go against the core of what you believe?
And now bear with me – I’m getting to Pope Francis. Yes, I just can’t let it go.
He seems like a nice fellow and certainly SAYS all the right things. But as a very wise psychotherapist told me years ago – if you want to understand who someone is or what they want, look at what they do. Consider their actions.
This bromide has also served me well as a dramatic writer. The core of someone’s character is not what they SAY. People say all sorts of things. It’s easy – you just open your mouth, or write it down, and words come out. But doing takes a bit more effort. It’s harder to take an action – especially when you get past middle age, which my almost 87 year old father tells me all the time. So when a 78 year old man like Pope Francis takes certain actions I, in turn, take it very seriously.
It’s all well and good for this man to not openly condemn gays and lesbians on his recent U.S. trip but what he actively DID last week in the nation’s capitol was have a SECRET meeting with a Christian woman who broke the law by refusing to do her $80,000 a year job as county clerk and issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. This got the LGBT community up in arms because many assumed his recent words about us – who am I to judge – meant something. Well, they do. But his actions meant more.
In a p.r. counter punch to the backlash from his meeting with Clerk Davis was the Vatican announcing two days later that Pope Francis also met with a former student of his from many years ago who is gay – AND his partner of 19 years – on the same trip. Is this the equivalent? Um, well, not really. The equivalent would be him calling in, say, Dan Savage and his husband and child. Or perhaps talking with Edie Windsor, whose case in the US Supreme Court broadened the definition of marriage to include the LGBT community.
This is all to say that the Vatican’s some of my best friends are defense to counter the fallout from the SECRET Clerk Davis meeting where he told her to stay strong and gifted her with rosary beads – is really an offense towards the people who it seemed were finally being, if not officially befriended, at least not discounted and devalued.
Here’s a rule of thumb to consider: A marginalized person will most likely find it difficult to get beyond your “actions” by mere words of love and caring. So when Pope Francis declares publically that gay marriage is “the work of the Devil” and the Church gives money towards or campaigns for laws preventing the legalization of LGBT couples adopting children or tying the knot, well – that tells us A LOT more than mere words. It shows us who its leader and his organization really are beneath the words.
And – let’s be clear – this goes for Jewish leaders, Muslim leaders and all other religious bigwigs of any kind, shape or form. It just so happens Pope Francis is the Man (well, he is, sort of) of the Moment.
Praying is a personal choice but we don’t live in a magical world. You can’t pray cancer away without medical treatment just as you can’t “pray the gay away.” If you’re religious and believe this is so – knock yourself out. But we have moved on from a time where one’s country dictates one’s religious beliefs or requires that mainstream America or its laws accommodate the idea that praying alone is an acceptable antidote to homosexuality or cancer. There is a separation of church and state in the experiment that was the U.S. We can be religious but we work and live in secular society according to objective laws, medical science and intellectual ideas – in other words, empirical facts.
This goes not only for the Pope but the NRA and other supporters of the gun lobby. Doing NOTHING to modify our gun laws as of late has not decreased the violence. If anything, it has had the opposite effect. Ten people died at a community college in Oregon on Thursday and every Republican running for the 2016 presidency has said variations of continue to do nothing. Jeb Bush noted “stuff happens” and Donald Trump shrugged his shoulders and remarked there are always going to be “crazy people.” Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson were not as colorful but each made it clear that they were against stricter gun laws and believe they would do nothing to curb the bi or tri-monthly mass shootings we’ve grown used to. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes called their combined strategy a “language of futility” and that’s as good a definition as I’ve heard.
Stating publicly that the death of all of these people – young and old – over the last few years is a tragedy are nice words to hear but do nothing to address the issue if one refuses to take ACTIONS so less tragedies occur in the future. You can say some of your best friends are gun owners or that some of your best friends’ children were victims of gun tragedies but still, it means you are on the side of letting this continue. In essence, it means you’re okay with these and future deaths.
Similarly, if you are against LGBT people legally marrying or adopting children in 2015 it doesn’t matter how many of us you invite into your personal space or hotel suite. You are not truly our friend. You are part of our problem. Love us a little less. Accept us a little more. And do something about it.