Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2017

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The tears just keep coming - for the nation

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“Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” — Jeremiah 9:1

Last weekend, I cried more than I have in a long time, perhaps ever.

I wept more than I did on the deaths of my parents; more than in 1968, when, within two months, I was hit by a double barrel of grief from the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy; more than I did in 1963, when there was at least a four-day period I recall as the first time I didn’t try to hide my tears.

The news Friday morning pained me — as I’m sure it did most in the nation — unlike any other similar tragedy in recent memory.

At first, the bulletin coming in a busy newspaper office about “another school shooting” gave me pause but didn’t distract me enough to stop working on what is generally my busiest day of the week.

When a colleague a short time later said, “They’re saying more than 20 dead,” it really hit me hard because I knew that the site was an elementary school and I immediately assumed that some young children had been killed.

As the sometimes-misinformed details unfolded, my heart ached more.

Someone had not just killed innocent individuals; someone had assaulted innocence itself.

In the office that afternoon, while watching the president choke up and wipe away tears as he addressed the nation, I couldn’t help but weep.

Several times over the next few days, while at home or alone in the car, I was overcome with such a feeling of sorrow that the tears flowed freely.

I don’t understand the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., or its perpetrator any more than I understand Charles Whitman at the University of Texas at Austin; Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City; Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.; Larry Gene Ashbrook at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas; Cho Seung-Hui at Virginia Tech; or the long list of killers responsible for mass murders.

Each time one of these heartbreaking events occurs, I think of that passage from Jeremiah: “Oh that my head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears ...”

You see, I realize that my tears are not just for the victims of these tragedies but also for a nation that has become accustomed to this kind of violence.

In his speech Sunday night in Newtown, President Barack Obama said: “We can’t tolerate this anymore. We are not doing enough, and we will have to change.”

Well, tell me, Mr. President, what are we going to do? What changes are we going to make?

We know that in most of these incidents, the common denominator is guns — high-powered weaponry that sadly has become too accessible in our nation.

Just as sad is the fact that we have too many cowardly politicians afraid to buck the powerful gun lobby and pass meaningful legislation to limit the number and kinds of weapons that too often are turned on unsuspecting innocents.

Until, and unless, we do something, we might as well get used to crying.

On Sunday afternoon, while driving from an assisted-living center where I visited an elderly friend, I turned off the radio and news of the shooting. I punched the CD button, which, as it turned out, still had the music I was playing during a recent trip to Houston.

As if on cue, Ray Charles’ last album, “Genius Loves Company” (featuring duets with other artists) began to play the song he performs with Johnny Mathis: “Over the Rainbow.”

The fountain in my eyes opened again.

From now on, whenever I hear that song, I will remember Dec. 14, 2012, and those children and educators gunned down on that fateful Friday morning.

I shall continue to grieve for them — and for the country.

Bob Ray Sanders is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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