I have spent most of this past week at the intersection of Anger and Pride. It has been a week for conflicting emotions. Starting the week, anger, as the US Senate, that pompously calls itself the world’s greatest deliberative body, chose politics over principles and failed to even discuss, never mind deliberate, the merits of some simple gun control measures that would make these United States a saner, safer place.
I listened to the opponents explain, essentially, that drunk driving laws are pointless because drunks will drive. It proved a couple of things to me. First, that while we yammer on about democracy and freedom, the US Senate is the most undemocratic institution imaginable allowing a voter in Alaska to exercise about one hundred times the influence as a voter in California. Wide open spaces like South Dakota, that contribute relatively little to population and common wealth of the nation, enjoy far more influence per capita than do the people of New York.
The second thing it proved is that money and a small, rabid hard core of believers can switch the Senate on and off like a porch light, no matter how lunatic the cause. And it being the US Senate, it only takes a minority to win.
Then came a time of pride as the ordinary people of this country proved to have the greatest hearts, the most powerful courage and compassion as bystanders ran toward the carnage in Boston to minister to the fallen, the grievously hurt and the dying. No thought for danger. Americans run toward trouble, run to help. We should be proud of that. I was.
Anger again, very personal for me, as it became apparent that fellow immigrants were responsible for this monstrous crime. Like the Tsarnaev brothers, I was allowed to come to this country, to go to college here, to marry a beautiful American girl, to become a citizen. I am grateful every day for these blessings and my blood boiled to think that these creatures were so twisted, so ungrateful, that their response for this kindness was unfocused murder that killed and maimed the innocent.
Pride in the skill of the lawmen who started with a pressure cooker lid and made the final arrest within four days. As I have mentioned before, I have a son who is a law man and I have worked around enough cops over the years to know the pressure they deal with and the long hours they devote when the need arises. Those lawmen were magnificent. Certainly they were armed, but two of their number paid the price in gunfights. To search as they did is to live with hour upon hour of heightened tension, every wire tight and humming. Been there, done that. It’s not like the movies. Having been shot at, I assure you it’s not fun.
Anger in the tragedy that struck West, Texas. Anger that a fertilizer factory hadn’t been inspected in twenty years. Ammonium Nitrate is fearsome stuff.
Grandaddy used a Mason jar full with some diesel fuel to blow a big stump to kindling. To locate a school across the road, and a nursing home up the block from a plant making the stuff is madness. The budget for the federal agency charged with policing such operations is about one third the annual budget for Gadsden county. So much for burdensome regulations. Admit it, that explosion didn’t have to happen and probably wouldn’t have if the plant had been inspected, maybe once a year.
Then pride again as those Texans looked disaster in the eye, hitched up their jeans and went to work to mourn the dead, comfort the hurt and clean up their town. This is a quite amazing country and its people something special. We are a mish-mash of colors and creeds, customs and origins and mixed together we are an alloy that doesn’t break when the hard times come.
It has been a roller coaster as disgust collided with euphoria, as sadness welled up within me and as a sense of pride made my chest swell. This is an amazing country and an extraordinary study in contradictions. It is a nation where some of the so-called leaders can bring a new meaning to the words craven, mendicant and cowardly, abandoning principle in the name of political expediency and campaign contributions. It is also a nation where, when bad things happen, ordinary people, everyday heroes, run toward the danger, intent on helping those who are harmed.