A year ago today, Donald Trump was elected the nation's 45th president. A measure of the reaction to Sunday's church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, indicates many in media, punditry and average citizenry don't have any more understanding today why he was elected than they did a year ago.
When troubled Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire at First Baptist Church, killing 26 people and wounding many others, the left's reaction was swift, predictable and rote: gun control. If we just had gun control, this would never have happened.
The sound bites may as well have been saved from any mass shooting in the last eight years and played again.
Never mind that the gun was obtained legally (though the Air Force in 2012 may have erred in failing to report the then-enlisted man's court martial) and that the incident was likely the result of a family feud.
But, hey, just call for restricting guns. And blame the Republican Congress that was not taking action to do just that.
Former President Barack Obama used to be the head of that echo chamber. But Middle America saw through the arguments, the repetition and the nonseriousness. It's one reason Obama's protégé, Hillary Clinton, was not elected to succeed him.
In shootings since Trump was elected, the left has cynically lumped its disdain of faith into the gun control argument. To offers of "thoughts and prayers" given after such shootings, it has angrily labeled such reactions as hollow, meaningless and stupid.
A few reactions after Sunday's incident from the left's best and brightest:
» "If prayers were the answer 2 gun violence wouldn't people at a church service be safe?" — Paula Poundstone
» "Speaker Ryan, bluntly: shove your prayers up your —- " — Keith Olbermann
» "If prayers did anything, they'd still be alive, you worthless sack of ——." — Wil Wheaton
These giants of punditry failed to grasp what the often bumbling Trump does grasp. To the majority of Americans, their faith is important, even sacrosanct. Cruelly and profanely demeaning it is not only hateful, it does nothing to sway anyone toward gun control (or any other issue).
Because, here's the deal. The truly faithful mean what they say when they indicate they will pray. They mean they will empty their minds of the clutter of their busyness and offer words of lamentation, of helplessness, of confusion and even of forgiveness for the perpetrator to the God of their understanding. They want to know why these horrible things continue to happen. They want to be given the wisdom to know how to stop them. They want those who commit such acts to know the peace that their faith gives them.
Quite separately from their prayers, they long for action but not the action of the usual empty phrases spilled out each time a mass shooting occurs. They have real questions that demand real answers but not answers either the left or the right are giving them.
They may own guns themselves, or they may disdain guns. But they wonder how gun laws will curb the firearms already in the hands of millions, all but a minuscule percentage of whom would never turn their gun on another if not threatened. They wonder how they can be kept out of the hands of street thugs, whose names will never be able to be found on a gun permit, a gun registry or a concealed carry permit.
They don't want guns in the hands of the mentally ill, but they wonder who will decide who the mentally ill are. Could the use of a certain antidepressive classify them as mentally ill but not the neighbor whose daily use of opioids has gone undetected?
They wonder how guns can be kept from someone who leads a normal life for years, then snaps in a fit of pique? Or whether guns should be removed from (or just not sold to) everyone charged with domestic violence, sexual harassment or use of some other weapon in the commission of a crime?
People of faith who hold opinions somewhere between ban-all-guns and allow-all-guns are never heard. Their voices, their important questions, their desire for reality in discussion on the issue are drowned out.
Many of those a year ago today voted for Donald Trump not because they believed he had the answer to the nation's gun problem but because he gave voice to what they did believe — that America was a country that still could solve such a problem, that America was an inherently good nation, that the faith that was a touchstone in the founding of America was still relevant today, that family values were not something to be debased and shamed and confined to the ash heap of history.
Those of us who still believe in that America sense that taming the problems of an angry, 26-year-old, domestic abuser would have been better solved with prayer and faith than with empty rhetoric about gun control.