Today, in Virginia, there was a massive tragedy. Dozens of promising lives have come to an abrupt and unnecessary end. Dozens – hundreds – more lives have been changed forever. All of this has happened because of a single person and his weapons.
There are those in this country who believe that we need to do more to keep weapons out of the wrong hands. Some have chosen to speak up now. There are those in this country who believe that we must be careful not to allow our emotions, after an event like this, to lead us to restrict the basic rights of Americans. Some have chosen to speak up now.
We have been told to shut up. We have been told that this is disrespectful to the families of the dead. We have been told to wait a week, or to not speak up at all. We have been told that if there is ever a time to speak, it certainly is not now, and that we need to show some tact.
The people who say these things are absolutely wrong. This is the time to speak.
People are dead, and we should not use their deaths as toys in a political game. People are dead, and we must not treat the dead as pawns while we mindlessly pursue the agenda of a political party simply because it’s the party that we usually root for. People have been murdered, and we need to respect their lives, their deaths, their memories, and their families.
We must not presume to speak on their behalf, as if they would all share our beliefs, as if they would all approve of what we do and think and say about what their deaths tell us. We cannot presume to speak as if those who died today could somehow be treated as a single entity, united by more than simply the time, place, and nature of their death. We must not forget that each and every person killed today was a person, with individual and unique hopes and dreams. We cannot forget that their friends and families are mourning now, that they need to mourn, and that they need as much time and respect as we can give them.
But we also cannot forget that people are dead. We cannot forget that people have been murdered. We cannot forget that many – too many – lives have been brought to a sudden, random end. We cannot forget that these deaths were not necessary, that they could have been avoided.
We cannot help but wonder if there were things that we should have done before now, that would have prevented this tragedy. We cannot help but wonder if there are things that we should do to keep this from happening again. We cannot help but wonder if something like this could happen again tomorrow. We mourn for the dead but we worry about those who are alive.
How, in good conscience, could we possibly be expected to shut up right now?