Friday, February 23, 2018

Ruth: Land of the grieved, home to the depraved

In our Groundhog Day culture of gun violence we've seen this blood-stained scenario played out again and again. And the ending never changes. We are not very original, but we are consistent.

A twisted soul becomes unhinged, shoots a bunch of people and great anguish ensues. That is quickly followed by equally great indifference cloaked in a grotesque misreading of the U.S. Constitution.

This is America, land of the grieved, home to the depraved.

It's been a week since Elliot Rodger, a creepy 22-year-old who couldn't understand why women wanted nothing to do with him, went on a murderous rampage near the University of California at Santa Barbara campus that left seven people dead and 13 injured. All the wounded were gunshot victims and four of the dead, including the shooter who killed himself, died at the end of a gun barrel.

As is so often the case in these tragedies, a lone, eloquent voice emerged in Richard Martinez, a California lawyer whose only child, Christopher, was one of Rodger's random targets. Martinez called for "immediate action" from President Barack Obama and Congress to do something — anything? — to reverse the insidious social cancer of gun violence.

Martinez urged the public to contact members of Congress with this message: "Not one more."

"I'm asking people to stand up for something," the heartbroken father explained. "Enough is enough." The pain Martinez is feeling is palpable. His desire to reduce the epidemic of gun violence is certainly admirable. His belief that the murders of his son and the other victims will amount to anything positive is, sadly, naive.

Martinez has made an understandable error in judgment that will come to haunt him as much as the nightmare of his personal loss. He has assumed the inexplicable ending of so many young lives so full of promise will translate into sensible gun control measures. They won't.

He has assumed the images of his bereavement will result in creating a safer society. They won't.

He has assumed the powers that be in Washington and within the corridors of the National Rifle Association will listen to his passionate but reasonable voice. They won't.

There is one voice, though, Congress and the NRA heeds. It's the voice that said this after the Santa Barbara rampage. "Your dead kids don't trump my constitutional rights."

That's the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution as uttered by Joe Wurzelbacher, otherwise known as Joe the Plumber, who became a darling of the tea party movement in 2008. That is the voice that reflects the NRA simpletons Washington listens to and fears more than a mourning parent of a dead kid.

That is who Martinez is up against — ideologues backed by big money. That is why he will lose. And that is why months from now Christopher Martinez will be largely forgotten because there are still so many more victims yet to come. And more broken parents, too.

As Martinez lays his son to rest, there is a cruel reality he needs to grasp.

In the wake of the 2012 Newtown school shootings, which claimed the lives of 20 first-graders and six school employees, the U.S. Senate could not bring itself to pass a tepid, watered-down simple universal background check law after 45 members, including Sen. Marco Rubio, blocked the measure under pressure by the NRA.

If the Senate could not act even though a vast majority of Americans supported sensible efforts such as universal background checks, limiting the size of magazines and the like after the Newtown shootings, what chance does Richard Martinez have?

If distraught parents of the first-graders, carrying photos of their dead children as they roamed the halls of the Capitol, weren't enough to sway the Senate, why should Martinez delude himself into believing the murders of his son and the other victims, Katherine Cooper, 22, and Elizabeth Weiss, 19, be any more persuasive?

They won't. Because Congress doesn't care.

Martinez is fighting the good fight on behalf of a son he loved. But in the politics of the gun control debate, there are never enough dead kids to move a Congress bought and paid for by the NRA.

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