Have we become so inured to the horrific incidents in our country that unless they are happening in our neighborhood, we dismiss them?
Do we view what happens in Washington, D.C., as a reality show, staged by paid performers/actors and scripted to entertain or anger or disgust us with no real consequences?
Let’s focus for a minute on Paul Gosar (Arizona, House of Representative) featured recently in an anime video in which he murders Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York, House of Representative) and swings swords at President Joe Biden. What if this fictional behavior had occurred among elected officials in your town or city?
Take it a step further: What if the persons depicted as being murdered or assaulted with a deadly weapon were your son or daughter, husband or wife?
I believe most of you would be outraged and would be calling for swift action.
With the increased threats of violence against public officials and their families, we will soon have a shortage of qualified applicants willing to run for office. There’s no where to hide now and with all manner of technology, including Google Map, those who would do harm can pull up addresses and other information on their devices and strategize on how to wreak the most harm.
On Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was murdered in broad daylight in Dallas, Texas. As the anniversary of his death is upon us, some are old enough to remember that day and perhaps your grandparents will share their feelings with you:
• Retired college professor and Nature Footage columnist, Judy Lehmberg was in a sixth-grade classroom in Fort Worth being taught by a substitute teacher who had attended a breakfast that morning where the president had spoken when she had, as she writes, “my first introduction to tragedy.”
• Nancy Brumbaugh Metz, retired speech/language therapist and administrator, writes, “I even remember where I sat in the classroom as a senior at Piqua Central High School. The atmosphere suddenly seemed terribly gray and quiet and remained that way until days following the funeral.”
• Author Terry Pellman indicates, “The world seemed out of balance and full of sadness for several days.”
• A high school student at the time, Marty Reich went to a Catholic church and prayed.
• Retired registered nurse and college professor Carol Lynn Retallick Jones says that she “was devastated because this was the first president I had been old enough to vote for.”
• Retired college professor S. Carol Deel recalls the immediate aftermath with the transfer of power, “I saw President Johnson take the Oath of Office. Jackie Kennedy stood beside him, blood on her suit.”
• Community corrections officer Susan Armour Tesno, a senior in high school at the time of the assassination, reports, “I was afraid the Russians would take advantage of the situation and attack us. For a long time I didn’t believe the president was dead. I decided he’d gotten tired of the responsibility and had faked his death so he could quietly slip off somewhere and live a peaceful life.”
A nation mourned with expressions of disbelief, sadness, and a world that felt out of balance. Memories are very specific in the minds of those who lived through it.
Was JFK perfect in terms of his personal life, his concealment of his health issues? Did we then and now in retrospect agree with his decisions as president regarding the Cold War, additional military advisors in South Vietnam, Civil Rights, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Bay of Pigs?
I realize that we are a different situation now, but can’t we stand together as a nation of laws? Can we no longer determine what is criminal behavior and prosecute that behavior, at least censure it?
What suggestions do you have? If your response is to return to the Christian religion, know that will work for some; however, the most recent Pew Foundation studies on religion in America indicate that religious beliefs are diverse and a large number of persons with no religious beliefs or practices is emerging.
Some might argue that we need more focus on mental health or on better parenting. Some might maintain that more resources need to be invested in addiction issues, poverty, homelessness, high school courses in American government and history, etc.
And some might just throw up their hands and say to themselves or to family and friends, “It’s not my problem. Let someone else figure it out.”
A bottom line is that we have a representative government, and we elect people at all levels from our school board members to the president to address the issues that we face in our towns/cities, our states and our nation. We must protect these elected officials and their families from harm if we expect those who are intelligent, informed, and committed to democracy to represent us.