Last week I found myself drawn into the NFL national anthem controversy. Holding firm to my beliefs, I carefully prepared an op-ed submission in which I expressed my feelings as eloquently and as forcefully as I could. I then sent it to the Star-Telegram opinion desk, confident that my liberal-leaning point of view would be published for all to see. And then came Las Vegas.
I am sure that virtually every person reading this op-ed piece experienced the same overwhelming sense of shock and disbelief that I did. You would think that with as many mass shootings that this country has experienced in the past several years, I would be getting numb to the feelings of grief and sorrow that accompany these senseless incidents. But it is the exact opposite. Every time I see an account of lives being taken for absolutely no discernible or understandable reason, I find myself more moved, and more emotionally wrung out, than the last time.
And as I languished in my misery, it occurred to me that my partisan expression of opinion about the NFL national anthem issue really wasn’t so important after all.
Regrettably, making an issue out of the meaning of kneeling during the national anthem is an unnecessary provocation. It is the kind of issue, much like taxes, health care and immigration, that feeds the partisan frenzy of our media, our citizens and, sadly, the needs of our president. But as I absorbed the reality of the shootings, I was struck by the realization that many of the events of our world transcend the all-too-common rules of partisan commentary. Feeling the pain and overwhelming grief of the families affected by the shootings doesn’t require partisan alignment. How sad that it takes that kind of pain, and that kind of resentment, to erase the carefully drawn lines between liberal vs. conservative and progressive vs. tea party factions, and to silence the hateful rhetoric. Maybe it takes emotionally wrenching events to make us poke our heads out of the vapors into which we have fallen and realize that we have a commonality, and it is our souls and our hearts.
Tragedies will not end partisanship. A difference of opinions is, after all, the hallmark of democracy. But fundamentally, we are all God’s creatures and we share a beautiful world. We share family experiences. We share things that make us proud, things that make us happy and, yes, things that make us mad or ashamed. I think all of us are ashamed and outraged that our country experiences, over and over, the senseless slaughter of innocents.
I think all of us are ready to stand together, arm in arm and with firm resolve, and say, “That’s it. We are done with this.” We have too much ability, too much strength and too much in common to continue to ignore these sickening shootings. I say it is time to step away from the issues that expend all of our energy without ever finding a resolution, and concentrate on a solution to gun violence that proves we are indeed a superior species. This time, let’s actually do something. Let’s make a commitment to proving that the United States of America values human life and human happiness over political grandstanding.
Steve Maxwell is a longtime Fort Worth attorney who was chairman of the Tarrant County Democratic Party from 2008 until 2013.