By Chris Goodfellow
As we honor yet again the veterans who have paid the ultimate price this Memorial Day, it would be wise to remember and contemplate what exactly they fought for and gave their lives for, particularly my father’s generation in World War II. It is easy to say they fought for “freedom,” a concept that today has many different meanings to many different people. Many of us cannot agree where one’s freedom begins and another’s ends today.
I do know that each and every one of them fought for a way of life that we all cherish no matter our differences and disagreements. They fought for a civil society that operates under a set of rules and laws that affords each of us to get up in the morning without a pit in our stomach, fearing what the day may bring–whether a Gestapo knock on the door, rounding up a minority that hateful invective by a leader had targeted, or a militarized police state that terrorizes everyone into conformity, a state where, when the leader walks into the room, everyone snaps to attention and raises a hand in salute. Veterans fought against an authoritarianism that threatened all democratic values.
But have no doubt, they really fought for their fellow citizens back home so they could get up in the morning and face the day without dread, and have a positive outlook to start the day.
Times have changed. I venture to say not one of them could imagine the division and hate promulgated with false pretenses in our Republic today and how we have become so cowardly to not take measures to ensure that we live in a civil society where we are free to rise in the morning and send our most precious resource–our children–off to school without any fear of harm, and go about our daily business without threat from others or the state itself. They would be ashamed of us.
For what is freedom if it is not freedom from such fears? If we arise each day in trepidation of what the day will bring, that is not freedom. It is tyranny in its most direct form.
I cannot tell you how many mornings I have gotten up and thought and prayed about our Sheriff Staley and his law enforcement officers over the past years, because it is these particular civic leaders who tread the front line of the craziness permeating America today. Any misstep or failure, and they immediately bear the wrath of the public and politicians. I cannot imagine what goes through the sheriff’s mind each and every day to have to live under the pressure of what deranged people will do in the community, what parent or family member he might have to console. I notice the subtle signs when he and his Flagler Beach colleagues have garbage trucks and water-filled orange barricades stationed at intersections to block a car with a deranged driver when we hold parades. What I cannot see is the toll being taken on all police constantly under threat 24 hours a day by this threat of gun violence. I know it is tremendous.
Our Vet’s did not fight so our own police would have to live in fear. Especially that they would live in fear because cowardly state and community leaders will not act to bring even the most minor changes to bring the madness under control.
The sad reality is that today most of us are held in this clutch of fear and held hostage in America by this tyranny of guns. It is the greatest disservice we could bestow on the memory of our Vets.
We are not measuring up. We have become weak and confused about what really matters. It matters that sane people rule our lives and that we all deserve to live free from fear and pursue our prosperity and happiness. False news, misinformation and plain untruths have overcome simple common sense, which was once one of the great strengths of America.
Plain Common Sense. That’s what our Vets fought for. We will not solve this problem by limiting the number of doors to a school. We will not solve it by turning schools into prisons full of armed guards. We will not solve it by the most perverse suggestion imaginable, and that is asking our teachers to participate in this violence by arming them.
No. We can solve this problem by plain common sense, and that is exactly what our Vets did. They disarmed the bad guys and set the good people free to go about their business free from fear. We have had by one reliable count 27 school shootings this year in America. By any measure, it’s almost as many school shootings in a single year as all European countries combined since World War II.
It is time county commissioners, governors and legislators exhibited some plain common sense. I am not obverse to gun ownership and possession by responsible citizens. But the manner in which we have allowed this issue of gun rights and ownership to evolve over the last 80 years, since the end of World War II, has obviously taken a huge toll: Over 1.5 million American lives. More losses than all wars in which America fought combined. Common sense says we are on the wrong path and the American people are getting frustrated and upset. I indeed hope 2022 becomes a one-issue election: Will you implement responsible gun ownership controls or not?
Simple common nationwide rules need to be adopted. We actually sent most of the Vets off to World War II with semi-automatic weapons, not fully automatic assault rifles. Can’t we simply agree on the common sense that these automatic weapons be eliminated from civilian ownership? Everyone is so ready to condemn the Uvalde officers for not storming the shooter. The shooter had an AR-15, and the police did not. Were the police cowards? I’m not going to second guess that.
The politicians who let this carnage continue are the cowards for not taking action.
Can’t we simply adopt some common sense rules about getting a gun? Take as a starting point our northern neighbor, with a 28-day wait, a full background check with references and passing some exams. None of that is getting in the way of anyone’s constitutional right to carry. It is just common sense to weed out a lot of the mentally deranged or disturbed kids, past felons and domestic violence perpetrators.
As community leaders, if you take no action, the blood of future victims will fall on your shoulders. You are not going to get away from taking responsibility any longer. You stepped up for the job by getting yourselves elected, and now you must measure up to the task. The number one task of all state and community leaders is to protect the citizenry, whether from natural disasters or crazies with guns.
We are looking to you. Measure up. Measure up to your job. Our Vets deserve it.
Chris Goodfellow, a retired pilot, is a resident of the Hammock. This piece was adapted from a Facebook post. See his last essay here.