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FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, APRIL 19, 2013
THE BEST AND THE WORST OF US
BY BOB FRANKEN
The unspeakable terrorism in Boston has caused us to reflect on the stark contradictions of humanity. Many are able to soar beyond magnificence even as some sink beneath contempt. So it was in Boston, and so it was in Washington.
After the bombs went off, we immediately witnessed on-site courage, compassion and super competence from those who displayed the loftiest ideals of their training and callings: medical providers, first responders, as well as ordinary citizens who instinctively showed us the best that we can offer.
A host of Boston’s citizens generously offered food and their homes to the marathon’s runners and fans who suddenly were left without shelter because their hotels in the immediate area were shut down, denying them access to their clothes and other basics, as well as credit cards and ID. Days later, they cooperated with the region-wide lockdown, motivated by civic pride.
In Washington though, the word we heard was “shame,” appropriate scorn for the members of the United States Senate who couldn’t ratchet up the scrap of courage it would take to vote for minimal gun control.
They cowered under the heavy-handed pressure of the National Rifle Association and others who do the dirty work of the deadly weapons industry. Forty-five of them were brow-beaten into ignoring the still-raw memory of the January mass shootings at Newtown, Conn.’s Sandy Hook Elementary. “Shame on you,” came the shouts from the Senate gallery. “A pretty shameful day for Washington” said a visibly angry President Barack Obama afterward. Shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords chimed in with a New York Times op-ed heaping scorn on “the cowardice these senators demonstrated.” She and the devastated families of the murdered innocents who worked up the energy to lobby were no match for those mercenaries thrive by manipulating the perverse love affair so many Americans have with their guns.
At least enough of the trembling senators worked up the nerve to reject an amendment that would have made things worse. It would have required states that permit concealed weapons -- even those with the strictest controls -- to impose no restrictions on those who come in from other states, even states with no limitations. Although that was turned down, so was the effort to create something positive out of the misery in Newtown. That brief flash of hope apparently has been snuffed out. At least for now.
And the generous spirit of the reactions to Boston was sullied by a few of the usual demagogue suspects who deposit their waste in the public arena. Congressman Steve King has used the bombing to pander to anti-immigrant hatred by suggesting that consideration of the sweeping reform bill be delayed because a suspect in the bombing might have been in the country on a foreign-student visa. Never mind that when he made the comment, there were no suspects.
But he was outdone by his House GOP colleague, Louis Gohmert of Texas. Gohmert is someone who routinely gives “moronic” a bad name, and he didn’t disappoint. There Gohmert was on C-SPAN, saying that the tragedy suggests the United States needs to construct a border fence, like Israel. Thank you for sharing, congressman.
In order to not be consumed by cynicism, it is far better to focus on the generosity and support that the Boston massacre has inspired. When the crowd at Yankee Stadium cheered as they heard “Sweet Caroline,” the theme of the arch-rival Boston Red Sox, it may have been only symbolic, but what it symbolized was a unity. Rivalries were swept away as Americans -- even Yankees and Red Sox fans -- came together in a determination to rise above ignorance and insanity. We can’t let the crazies overrule civilization, nor tolerate unfeeling opportunists and those they intimidate chipping away at it. Humanity is far too precious to squander.
© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.