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Look for the Helpers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ” – Fred Rogers

In my last column, I said how hard it was not to write about politics. I also said you were welcome because I wasn’t going to. I’m still not, exactly, but I’m not exactly going to dodge it, either, because it permeates our lives in a way I’ve never seen before.

As of this writing, at least 31 people died in mass shootings last weekend. As of this writing, there have been 255 mass shootings in this country this year, which is 218 days. As of yesterday afternoon—Monday, August 5—according to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 33,237 total shooting incidents, resulting in 8,796 gun deaths and 17,480 injuries in 2019.

I took a break after typing the previous paragraph because I can’t bear thinking about it. Those statistics are changing as I sit here, watching a young deer cavorting around the yard—and not for the better.

Who or what is to blame? My goodness, that list is endless, isn’t it? So far I’ve seen the following: Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton, Christians, Muslims, atheists, mental health, video games, the NRA, no prayer in school, terrible parents not teaching respect, terrible Boomers, terrible Millennials, terrible Gen Xers, Democrats, Republicans, the Senate, the House, guns, people-not-guns, Colin Kaepernick, liberals, conservatives, young white men, young black men, immigrants, illegal immigrants, greed, lack of accountability, same-sex marriage, transgender rights, disrespect toward veterans, “drag queen advocates,” and cellphones.

I’m sure there are more, but those are the ones that came readily to mind. I have ones in that mix that I blame and I’m sure you do, too.

It’s not helping.

The name-calling, the lying, the “funny” memes, the purely cruel memes, and the “inaccuracies” shared on social media only serve to add flames to the fire of hatred.

They’re not helping.

Violence and our response—or lack thereof—to it have made the offer of “thoughts and prayers” into a travesty of its intent. While they are good things, and I believe they are needed things, they are not enough in and of themselves.

I hesitate to say it, because things might be even worse without them, but they’re not helping.

I remember when mass shootings were something we never thought of. Everyone in my generation remembers that. When my kids were in school, I worried about bus accidents, about bullying, about how we were going to pay book rent. I never worried about them being shot. With my grandkids and my teacher kids, I worry about that every single day.

It doesn’t help.

Discipline used to be different. Retribution for misbehavior was swift and fierce. But what qualified as bad behavior was subjective. A lot of people used the n-word like it was nothing. They also used terms like “greaser” and “wetback.” A lot of them still talk about broads. Retards. If they were punished for it then, I don’t remember it. Most of us have been called enough names since 2016 to have just a taste of what many others face every day of their lives. The taste is bitter.

But knowing that doesn’t help.

Several people I know have said, Don’t take away the guns. They’ll find other ways to do it. They’ve said not a shot was fired on Nine Eleven. They’ve said knives have been the weapon of choice in other mass killings. They have said, over and over and over, that no one’s going to touch their Second Amendment.

Which says: "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."

There’s the First Amendment, too, which protects several basic freedoms in the United States, including freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and the right to petition the government.

Then there is the Ninth Amendment, which says: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

It sounds as if the Second Amendment shouldn’t be more important than the First or the Ninth ones. Or vice versa. Yet we cling mightily and loudly to the ones that matter most to us. I will live and die by the First one, but it matters little or not at all to others. I care little about the Second one, but know it matters greatly to others, to hunters and to those who have guns for protection and to those who have a fondness for weaponry. We should all care about the Ninth one. But do we?

That’s not helping, either.

I wish I had answers. Not just for me and those who share my outlook, but for others, too. I want there to be a way to live peacefully and equably with each other. We need to know that it’s not enough for life to be good for just old rich guys, or just white people in suburbs, or just African-Americans who live in inner cities, or just Hispanic people who are looking for a better place.

Mr. Rogers’ mother was right when she urged her son to “look for the helpers.” In this social and political climate, however, we need to take it further. Those of us who are capable—and that’s many more than will speak up; I admit that—we need to BE the helpers.

Have a good week. Be safe. Help someone.


Liz maintains a blog that you can visit by clicking this link:

Get her latest Romance Novel Nice to Come Home from Amazon by clicking on this link:

Nice to Come Home To is the third book in the Lake Minigua series, following Every Time We Say Goodbye and The Happiness Pact.

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