Having been a Times-Herald subscriber for most of my adult life and having written more than a few Letters to the Editor, I’ve gotten to know, and come to like very much, Times-Herald Editor Jack F. K. Bungart. I knew Mr. Bungart was from the Chicago area — he’s a huge Cubs fan. Need I say more?
But I didn’t know, until reading his July 11 column, that he was from Highland Park. Highland Park, Illinois, now joins the ever-increasing list of towns permanently associated with the worst of crimes — mass shootings. Columbine, Uvalde, Highland Park … just three of hundreds of mass-shooting venues since 1999, in which more than 2,000 unfortunates have been injured or killed. And small towns are, I believe, most affected. Large cities tend to swallow bad news with numbers and acreage while small towns don’t have that luxury.
Seeing the front-page headline, “Pain and anger for my hometown, Highland Park,” my heart sank. As I read Mr. Bungart’s column, I could imagine the memories of his happy childhood slipping away. Dozens of Fourth of July parades, suddenly overshadowed by one horrific event. And many of his fond hometown memories, some on the very street where the shooting took place, will, for now, and the foreseeable future, lose whatever joy they once inspired.
I put myself in Mr. Bungart’s position as he first noticed the crawl at the bottom of the television screen identifying Highland Park as the latest mass-shooting location. I imagined myself hoping against hope that there was another town with the same name. But no such luck. I could imagine the sickening feeling as reality set in. My wish for you, Mr. Bungart, is that the heartbreak you feel now will soon be replaced by the good times you had.
Empathy. Most of us have at least a modicum of that emotion. But that seems to be what’s missing among our lawmakers, ironically, because this quality, above all others, should be required for anyone who has decision-making responsibilities for millions of constituents.
Any person directly affected by events such as these is understandably the most vocal. These are the folks who speak out, organize rallies, circulate petitions, and plead with our elected officials to do something, anything. But the directly affected have done all they can, it seems. We need more of these human-rights advocates. It’s time for the indirectly affected to be heard as well. We can all make a difference if we choose our candidates wisely and VOTE!
Prayers and sympathy don’t solve problems. Laws do. But unless, or until, lawmakers either develop empathy, or uncover it, and the courage to stand up to the NRA, the most we can hope for is the weak, but still welcomed, legislation like that signed by President Biden recently. It will help keep guns out of the hands of those meaning to do harm — not a small thing. But addressing the easy availability and proliferation of assault weaponry, actually weapons of war, is key. Australia’s mandatory ban and buyback program of assault weapons, such as the AR-15, successfully removed 650,000 from the population. Australia, the scruffy land of cast-offs, turns out to be more civilized than the United States.
I think it’s time to stop warning us that the video we’re about to see may be disturbing. Just show it, in all its bloody glory. Let’s see what an AR-15 shell can do to a body, or several bodies. Let’s watch as survivors, many injured, in shock and covered in blood, step over and around their fallen classmates, mall shoppers, churchgoers, nightclub patrons, theatergoers — and let’s not forget parade attendees — in order to leave the blood-soaked venues.
Show us the heart-breaking anguish on survivors’ faces — not days later, but then and there. After this bloody reality sets in, perhaps our elected officials will be motivated to actually pass meaningful gun legislation.
I mean, seriously, we’ve tried everything else.
— Michael J. Haworth/Vallejo