Monday, December 17, 2012

The Soul of America

"A house divided against itself cannot stand." Scripture and Lincoln.

We are a terribly divided nation. Brother against brother. Parents against children. Communities against other communities. The recent slaughter of innocent children hurts and wounds us all. And our approaches are so different and provoke more bitter division. A very well-thought out piece by my moderate Republican blogger friend expresses some of this very well.

Here are my thoughts:

Beyond the core issue of the troubled soul of America, there is good news. I understand that violent gun crime is actually down even if these mass-shootings seem to be going up - and on none more innocent than six and seven-year-old children that effects us all so deeply. So something must be done.

We don't know what could have prevented this latest tragedy but we need to keep trying. There seem to be two principal problems we need to be working on. We're already ahead on one.

Mental Illness

The President is ahead of the game. And the Supreme Court helped us out. One important aspect of Obamacare is that medical insurance is required to cover mental health issues the same as any other medical matter. Here's a Psychiatrist writing about this on his blog.

Obamacare is still to be fully implemented. There is much to work out and mental health is challenging field. Fortunately for me and my family, and many other federal employees, these provisions already went into place on our insurance policies. Our premiums went up a little. But we have better coverage (and coverage for our college kids up to 26 which is a big help and worth slightly higher premiums.) I know people who have taken advantage of increased mental health coverage greatly to their benefit. There are so many now in America who suffer from mental health issues without getting treatment at all. I've even told my 15-year-old son who is thinking about going into medicine that psychiatry would be a growth field both for the benefit of the US citizenry and anyone going into that field where we need so many more practitioners (who will now get paid by insurance coverage!)

Gun Control

Such a dirty pair of words for the extreme right wing. But just like the tea party, they are not a majority (except maybe in a few western or southern states). There has to be an answer between taking all the guns away and doing nothing. No one should object to common sense gun safety. The gun advocates have a responsibility to step up and help with reasonable laws like a more effective assault weapon ban than the one that expired -- and more control over completely unregulated sales at swap meets and gun shows. Veterans groups could help. They know the weapons. And politicians need a bit of backbone to stand up to the moneyed interests of the NRA and gun manufacturers.

Better Dialogue

To save the soul of America we need greater respect for each other. It doesn't help to take extreme views like taking all the guns away (as tempting as that may be). On the other side, the impractical logic goes to the offensive extreme as in the proposals to solve the problem with guns with more guns. (Please, just stop and think about some of the teachers you had. Would you really want them armed in the classroom?). I'm a believing Christian, yet I find it very offensive to blame "taking God out of the schools" for the shooting of six-year-olds. The FIRST Amendment comes before the more confusing SECOND. Read them both, please.
Amendment I
Congress [and the States following the Fourteenth Amendment and the Supreme Court] shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment II
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
And please keep with the facts in these disputes. Snopes is already trying to sort out the stories spreading around the internet. One account, apparently correctly reported in the press, gives the story of a true American hero. A teacher who exhibited faith and great respect for the beliefs of others in the face of absolute horror:
When the shooting began, Roig said she quickly got up and closed her classroom door and ushered the children, all aged 6 and 7, into the class bathroom. She helped some climb onto the toilet so they could all fit. Roig said she then pushed a wheeled storage unit in front of the door.
"We all got in there. I locked us in," she said. "I don't know if [the gunman] came in the room... I just told them we have to be absolutely quiet."
"If they started crying, I would take their face and tell them, 'It's going to be OK,'" Roig continued. "I wanted that to be the last thing they heard, not the gunfire in the hall."
Roig said she just tried to stay strong for her students, but she didn't think they would make it out of the classroom alive.
"I thought we were all going to die," she said through tears. "I told the kids I love them and I was so happy they were my students... I said anyone who believed in the power of the prayer, we need to pray and those who don't believe in prayer" think happy thoughts.
With heroes like Kaitlin Roig, America need not be so divided.

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