“Only in America” – patriotic song lyrics:
Only in America
Where we dream in red white and blue
Yeah we dream as big as we want to
Only in America
“Only in America” – Urban Dictionary definition:
A phrase said when something outrageously stupid or idiotic happens in the United States that normally wouldn’t occur anywhere else in the world.
Take a deep breath and let this reality sink in, way down into every fiber of your being. Let these statistics speak to your understanding of American exceptionalism. Only in America are an average of 53 people now killed each day by a firearm (this according to the CDC). Only in America are firearms now the leading cause of death among children. On the 24th of May, 40+ miles west of San Antonio, TX, America ignominiously added yet again to those horrific statistics as only America can do.
Does the mass slaughter of nineteen 4th graders and two teachers in their classroom in a small Texas town by a crazed 18 year old with assault rifle and body armor warrant comment on a Creation Justice blog? It is a question I have asked myself since the recent carnage in Uvalde, TX. The appearance of today’s post answers that question in the affirmative. These posts are intended to address issues that relate to justice for all God’s Creation. Quite simply, what happened in Uvalde (and what happens routinely only in America) is not just. And, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Twenty one of God’s creatures, nineteen children and two adults were slaughtered, bodies riddled by bullets from an AR 15 style assault rifle called a DDM4. Like its military version, it is designed to kill people quickly and in large numbers. By any definition, murder, the taking of an other’s life, is unarguably an act of injustice. But it is the means by which massacres, homicides and suicides take place in America, the use/abuse of firearms, and the right to possess and use them with little or no restraint/regulation that remains the point of contention across the culture as we struggle with our conflated norms, mores and values.
It is a well known fact that the United States of America is the only nation on the planet where the population of the country is outnumbered by the guns we own. Only in America is there a culture that embraces gun ownership as a sacred right of citizenship. Only in America is the “right to bear arms” enshrined into its Bill of Rights. Only in America is gun ownership perceived by a significant sector of the population to be not only a constitutional right, but also a “God-given” unalienable right, right along with “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
And so ingrained and interwoven into the political fabric of America is this gun culture, that days in advance of the Robb Elementary School massacre, the Republican Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, broadcast via Twitter this lament and challenge:
“I’m EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans.”
Salvador Ramos, a local high school student, answered the call on his 18th birthday by legally purchasing two assault rifles and scores of ammo without the need of a background check, license or training. And the rest is history.
It is a history lesson that we know all too well and that is agonizingly bound to be repeated ad infinitum. Why? Because a minority of Americans and politicians that pander to them and to gun lobbies value their “right to bear arms” more than the damage that right causes to society as a whole. And to legitimize that right is the rationale that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Therefore, what’s needed is more guns to protect ‘good’ people with guns from ‘bad’ people with guns. More cops with guns. More teachers with guns. More parents with guns. Perhaps more kids with guns?
That game plan sounds good to firearms manufacturers, distributors and the National Rifle Association. Speaking of the NRA, today it pulled the trigger on its annual convention in Houston, TX without the Governor’s physical presence, just his prerecorded remarks. Several country music stars who were also scheduled to perform at the convention also dropped out, including Lee Greenwood who stated that he canceled his appearance,”out of respect for those mourning the loss of those innocent children and teachers in Uvalde.” Scheduled speakers not too embarrassed to appear included former President Donald J. Trump, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and (our very own) Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson of North Carolina.
Not an invited speaker at the convention was Catholic Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas. Following the mass shooting, and in response to the standard song and dance by the NRA, he spoke out passionately on Twitter: “Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem, people are. I’m sick of hearing it. The darkness first takes our children who then kill our children, using the guns that are easier to obtain than aspirin. We sacralize death’s instruments and then are surprised that death uses them.”
To ‘sacralize’ means to treat as or make something sacred. We may recall the biblical account of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, while forgetting that it took two trips of 40 days each to accomplish the fete. In the mean time the impatient and fickle Israelites gathered up all the jewelry they could amass and ‘sacralized’ a golden calf to worship. A “my God-given right” attitude toward the 2nd Amendment (A2) is what Bishop Flores is alluding to when he says we make guns sacred and then are aghast when they are used as instruments of death. That which we sacralized turns into sacrilege (desecration, irreverence).
As sacrilegious as this idolatry may be, and as heinous as each recurring murder by firearms is, there is little hope that repentance is anywhere on the horizon. Indeed, soon the highest court of Justice in the land, packed with a pro- gun rights majority, is set to issue a ruling in a New York gun rights case that will more likely than not widen the scope of protections the 2ndAmendment affords individual gun owners who wish to carry a gun outside of their homes.
While all surveys indicate a majority of Americans favor common sense regulations on gun ownership, legislation on federal and state levels alike are either stymied or bludgeoned by pro gun legislators. The same inability to pass meaningful and timely global warming/climate change legislation is mirrored with nonexistent or impotent firearms regulation. The only ultimate answer to the twin problems lies in new leadership, which is itself an uphill slog given the uneven playing field imposed by voter suppression, post election shenanigans and gerrymandering.
While Greg Abbott is EMBARRASSED that Texans aren’t purchasing as many guns as Californians, the rest of the world is embarrassed, and frankly, repulsed by the carnage that is happening routinely day after day only in America. In the midst of the same old tune being sung by 2nd Amendment adherents and the innocent lives that are lost across the land, I’ll close with a timely hymn written by the amazing Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. It is not a call for the purchase of more weapons of mass destruction, but rather that together we may “build a kinder land where our children understand: Every child here matters more than the guns we clamor for.”
God, Our Nation Feels the Loss
PILOT 188.8.131.52.7 (“Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me”)
God, our nation feels the loss
as our children pay the cost
for the violence we accept,
for the silence we have kept.
Rachel weeps for children gone;
God of love, this can’t go on!
Jesus, Lord, we hear you say,
“Don’t turn little ones away!”
May we build a kinder land
where our children understand:
Every child here matters more
than the guns we clamor for.
Holy Spirit, wind and flame,
send us out in Jesus’ name.
May we shout and say, “Enough!”
May we build a world of love —
till the sounds of weapons cease,
till our young can grow in peace.
Tune: John Edgar Gould, 1871. Text: Copyright © 2022 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Permission is given for free use of this hymn for churches and ecumenical services.
Author’s Note: See the reference to the Slaughter of the Innocents: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18). This hymn was written in remembrance of the beloved children of God who died in the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde , Texas . Many of us, as individuals, do not accept violence, keep silence, or clamor for guns. Yet, as a nation, we do these things, and as a nation, we need to repent; we need to turn around and live a different way. All of us are called to do more than sing and pray; please work for gun safety laws in your community and state.