Shooting up a church, even in a small town where a lot of people voted for Donald Trump, is a wicked thing to do. Everybody — well, nearly everybody — thinks so. But some people are determined not to let a convenient massacre go to waste.
Such is their anger and frustration that the hicks and hayseeds can’t see the error of their ways, and still “cling to God and guns,” that this time some of them won’t even send their “thoughts and prayers” to that little town in South Texas without even a traffic light or a Starbucks where you can get The New York Times. Worse, there’s a church.
The blood had not even been washed from the floor and scrubbed from the pews of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs before the wonderfully progressive Progressives put out the call for more gun-control laws and new attempts to educate the yokels. Maybe this time somebody could make the yokels listen.
Democrats in “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” where there’s not necessarily much deliberation but ample gassy noise, demanded that Congress fix what ails us. The twittering was deafening. “I’m thinking of, and praying for, all those impacted by the shooting in Texas,” tweeted Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, “and in addition to my prayers and thoughts I also believe Congress must take action on gun violence.”
Dick Durbin of Illinois added a similar tweet. “The shooter turned his gun on people, and kids, in a place of worship. America is in the grips of a gun violence crisis. Congress must act.” Perhaps because the only act Congress is capable of is blowing off steam, he didn’t say what he and his colleagues could or should do.
Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts had a tweet, too, addressing it directly to the Republicans. “Thoughts & prayers are not enough, GOP.” (Why ask God for guidance when you can ask a senator?) “We must end this violence. We must stop these tragedies. People are dying while you wait.”
Dianne Feinstein of California considered the politics of the occasion, and rather than waste all her thoughts on country folks singing psalms and reading from their Bibles, included concerts as places deserving to be massacre-free. This was a point made by Chelsea Clinton, who included night clubs in her calls for thoughts and prayers.
Chris Murphy of Connecticut wrote an essay to his colleagues in the Senate, telling them they must hold themselves accountable. “Ask yourself,” he said in a lengthy lecture, “how can you claim that you respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of your constituents?” Or if not a majority of his constituents, a majority of the people whose votes he covets.
Everybody has an opinion, some of it not as educated as others, about the source of the evil. David Frum of CNN, the cable-TV network, thinks racial and sexual anxieties lie at the root of the popularity of guns for self-defense. Max Boot of the Daily Beast blames congressional gridlock, though the last time the Senate took up a bill to ban assault weapons it attracted only 40 votes. David Brooks of The New York Times blames country folks and rust-belt survivors for the great national misunderstanding of the crusade to disarm America. E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post blames gerrymandering, the filibuster and too many representatives of country folks in the Senate. All the usual suspects, with all the usual suspicious arguments. It’s not a good time to be an American on a rural route.
All this attention to nits and gnats ignores the mere facts, that the man who killed country folks in Sutherland Springs was an evil man with a history of spreading evil. He beat his wives and infants. He tortured his dogs, including, no surprise, a pit bull. He threatened his wives, his mother-in-law and killed the mother of his mother-in-law.
Social media never rests, and there is much mockery of praying people in the wake of the massacre, reflecting the disdain of the tweeting senators. “The murdered victims were in a church,” tweeted one reader addressing another on social media, “and if prayers did anything, they’d still be alive, you worthless sack of [excrement].”
Churches, synagogues and mosques were once regarded by everyone as sanctuaries from the violent world, a haven for those who take refuge in the certainty that God is a God of mercy, who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, and no power on earth can change that. We are all at the mercy of the broken culture that produced Devin Patrick Kelley. The fault lies not in the stars, nor about guns or even greedy politicians, but the criminal who does the deed.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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