“We’re not doing enough. We will have to change.”
They were the words of Barack Obama, but they felt like the message from a nation mired in the despair of a helpless malaise. Understanding that each of us bears some responsibility, not just to ourselves but to our nation.
I watched President Obama speak to the families of Newtown, Connecticut and felt more connected to my president than at any time since the attacks of September 11.
While nothing will fully erase the memory of failed economic policies, a hegemonic health care bill, divisive hypocritical rhetoric about taxes and the deficit, or the foreign policy disasters of the last year, Barack Obama made me forget all of those for a brief moment.
If you didn’t forget (and many on Twitter perversely decided it was a good time to make political jokes), I feel sorry for you.
Showing for the first time what a true leader looks like, Obama was compassionate, but firm, genuinely heart-broken, yet steady.
But nothing changes if we don’t. Let’s not flail around looking for scapegoats was his message. This isn’t an issue of the media as Morgan Freeman will have you believe. Violent video games aren’t to blame, nor is aggressive music or movies.
The President had the culprit correct when he named it several times: “we.”
This is our fault.
We let the NRA prevent us from banning assault rifles which no civilian could possibly need. We didn’t pay close enough attention when the extended magazine restriction hit its sunset.
We haven’t placed a premium on the mental health of our children, demanding that parents everywhere have a place to get help if they have a child who is mentally ill.
As a culture of parents, we’ve lost our way. Gone is the discipline and regimentation of our former generations, replaced with pharmaceutics remedies and video game baby-sitters.
Our parental culture, as much as anything in this country, is broken. No legislation will fix that. We have to.
My mother, an inner-city school teacher, has had conferences with the parents of struggling students, only to watch the parents berate and beat their children just outside the classroom. She’s had to call the police more than once.
Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Barack Obama said vote for “Change we can all believe in.”
Until now, we haven’t gotten the change we’ve sought because we only listened to the second guy, not the first. Voting for Barack Obama never was going to solve the problems this country faced.
We had to make sure that happened, no matter who we voted for. Too often has our president used powerful words only to fall short with his actions. We’ve suffered from the same delusion.
If Barack Obama leads us, he has a chance to follow through on his own words and those of Ghandi’s. His words Saturday make me believe he knows and understands that.
I’ve said from the first day he was introduced as a candidate that I hoped Barack Obama was the man so many thought he was. Not because of his politics, most of which I detest, but because of his potential as a uniting force in leadership. Four years in, he hasn’t even been a shadow of that leader.
He has a chance to be and because we cannot afford to wait any longer, because we can’t afford to have another Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or Newtown, we need him to be.
Each of us must do the same and find out how we can help change the culture, change the laws, and yet all the while doubling down on the foundation of the United States of America.
That has never had to change. The foundation of America, a place where every person has a chance to flourish and follow his or her dreams, that hasn’t changed. What has changed is that more and more, we’re only worried about our own dreams and success, forgetting that our own success is inextricably linked to the ability that others around us have to likewise succeed. “A threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere” is what Dr. Martin Luther King said.
Somewhere along the line that idea was lost, perhaps perverted and altered. But that backbone is as sturdy as ever and we must lean on it, reminding ourselves that Democracy is freeing and empowering only when we demand it be so for everyone.
We’re not doing enough. We will have to change.