This was my view of the Yachats River at low tide Saturday afternoon. Tranquil scenes like this, and lots of time spent riding bikes, tend to make us forget that the world is not a peaceful place. Then we get word of an event, like the mass shooting in Florida Sunday morning. That reminds us how things really are.
Like politicians everywhere, Gov. Kate Brown was moved to say something about the shooting. She mentioned having spoken at Umqua Community College Friday, and she paid tribute to that community’s resiliency. Ten people died there last year, in circumstances far different from the event in Florida Sunday, and the college and the town went on. What else does anyone expect? Communities always go on. Almost exactly a century ago, at the Battle of the Somme, tens of thousands of men died in just a few hours. You’d think something like that would make the world stop, but the world went on just the same. Resiliency? What choice do we have?
Every other day we read about mass killings in various places, mostly in Baghdad or Kabul. Bombs go off, and dozens or scores of innocents are blown up. Elsewhere, passenger planes are brought down by missiles or bombs or who knows what. Do any of us stop what we’re doing?
Before ending with the usual — about her thoughts being with the Florida victims and their families — Governor Brown said, “I call upon us as a state to move beyond the political debate about gun control and instead bring responsible gun owners and community advocates together to find solutions. We must take action to better protect community safety.”
“Community safety” cannot be protected better than it is, and certainly not by community advocates or by some kind of unilateral disarmament. We’re in a low-intensity war and have been since some time before 9/11/2001. We keep forgetting this because the enemy is so hard to see, and often impossible to detect at all until the attack is over and bodies are lying on the floor. We don’t know who the enemy fighters are because they seem like ordinary citizens until just before they strike. Or even after: The Florida shooter reportedly called 911 from the scene of the attack to say he was inspired by ISIS.
In that kind of twilight struggle, safety is an illusion. All we can do, as communities and individual citizens, is to remain reasonably alert to any sign of impending action, even though it’s unlikely there will be visible signs.
The other thing is to develop a certain degree of stoicism about our losses. The losses will mount, but they are nothing like the Somme. (hh)
My thoughts are with the victims in Orlando, their loved ones and families, and I extend my sincere gratitude to the first responders. As Oregonians, we share in the pain and mourning reverberating across the United States and world today.”
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