Dear President Obama;
I write in your direction regarding the recent deadly shootings in public spaces in the United States, in a sense of spiritual and intellectual correspondence with the tenor of your memorial address Sunday night. I guess, in some ways, we are a lot alike. I have a family that I love very much, and that everyone else seems to really love too. I have a busy job with myriad stresses that keeps me out of the house a great deal, and when I get home, I have to summon a second side of myself in order to engage with my inspiring wife and remarkable young children, to enjoy who they are. I strive to navigate a world in which my decisions must reflect well on me as well as a small team of people who need me. I see my kids off to school each morning knowing I am loosing them into a swirl of inspiration and dejection; I can pick up toys off the stairs in my own house, preventing a tumble, but not out there. Sometimes the world around me is hellish or weedy or petty, but I have to cut a decent path through it. It’s a daily challenge. You probably have had similar experiences.
I write because, in these last days, I have taken stock of what exactly it is that I can do to ensure my children’s safety in the world beyond my house, as a new reality seems to morph beneath my feet. You mentioned this in your speech, pointing to a responsibility that must rest on a larger community of people. It was as close to a vindication of the ideal of citizenship as I have seen any president utter in my short lifetime. I felt that. So, I figured the best I could do was write to you to implore you to put some muscle into this fight, behind the shield of those artful words.
Publicly and privately, our nation invests fortunes into formulating strategies for various battlefields, some close to permanent and some chillingly remote. Experts live on payrolls of the government, corporations, and think tanks, honing our military might into a laser of equal precision and force. The results, though empirically muddy, are on a small-scale quite lucrative. Say it about Americans, we know how to assemble brain power to achieve an objective, however righteous or misguided it is. So why then do we not take this approach to what is undeniably our most dangerous domestic battlefield, where mentally unstable people have easy access to guns as well as a culturally hardwired blueprint for inflicting terror?
What I am suggesting is far more than a blue ribbon commission or some shifty testimony before Congress. We need funded institutions in this country that attack every tentacle of this problem. And there are tentacles: gun laws need a complete redefinition, the very system that ensures the care and security of those who suffer from mental illness needs to be nationalized and strengthened, the loudest talkers in our cultural hubs need to be calling for and emulating a new communal ethic. We have a boon of intelligent, driven people in America that need to be incentivized immediately to untangle this mesh of problems, and we need you to call them to action.
You and I both know that the will of the people is overwhelmingly behind you in this. The desperate among us are clinging to the idea that you now have nothing to lose. The optimistic among us tell ourselves that you have thought this way all along. It’s time to start the push out of the muck. What else can you or I do, except see our children out the door, and wonder what we’ve left lying around for them to trip on out there?