I was going to update you on a few bills and prattle on about the inanity of a President who when he doesn’t get his way, declares a national emergency. But all of that seemed trivial next a thirty minute incident in the news room at the Roundhouse.
I want to share with you a single moment that brought home the power of a single bullet. No one was killed; no one was injured; but that does not mean that the shooting at a Rio Rancho high school today had no impact.
I was sitting in the press room above the House Floor. One of the regulars sat down near me and we said our usual, hellos, how are you? But instead of the usual “going good,” or “I’ve had better,” came a “Not good… not good at all.” He was clearly choked up. Another reporter asked him if he was ok, and he said no.
He then proceeded to tell us how he had received a call from his daughter’s high school that morning. There was a shooting incident, the school was in lockdown and he should stay tuned. He quickly went on to say that all was now fine, she and indeed no one had been killed or injured, but the ripple of that moment invaded the news room. Every one of us had our silent thoughts of just how powerful and how utterly random that kind of call can be. And how, as Parkland has made so clear, how that kind of call can be so final, so life changing, so horrific. Even as I type, I can barely keep from crying as I have had that moment, the moment the ER doc told me they had done all they could, my 17 year old brother was dead. Forever dead. We are so vulnerable to so much, a drunk driver, an inflamed husband, a toxic spill, a random bullet.
Some of these random moments can’t be prevented; they are part of life and the human spirit tells us that we must move on. And we do. But some of it can be prevented. And since we humans are not very good at controlling our own impulses and organizations bred in a capitalist culture are driven more by greed than compassion, we turn to our government, not to control us, but to help us be more civil. And to achieve this end, we have created local, state and national governmental and judicial structures. And we have elected leaders to create laws that govern and regulate you and I, and business and industry. Because without some form of government, it would be a Darwinian chaos.
But government doesn’t always do a tremendous job; money in politics, media pollution, human nature and other factors all intercede and make more difficult an already thankless task. Today, I had another important moment. I was interviewing Sen. Ortiz y Pino about SB 489. He said something like: ‘It is so difficult to thread the needle with legislation. If we craft a bill to address the views of the most progressive, moderates will kill it and if we make it too moderate, progressives will try to kill it….and so we do our best.’
And I truly believe that all of our elected officials do just that: their best, their very human, all too imperfect best. Even the GOP with all their stalling and being late to hearings and their repetitive questions, both designed to slow the process, they are only doing what they think is best. They know they don’t have the votes, but they believe in their hearts that the state will go to hell if we regulate guns, gas and oil, or raise taxes. So they do the only thing they can: stall. And if the shoe were on the other foot, we’d be begging the Dems to do the same: their best.
The sad thing about this dynamic of two sides pulling in opposite directions is that we often don’t get enough done and so government doesn’t do its job as well as it might and then the governed are left more vulnerable to that moment when our human fragility is exposed. That call. That bullet. That irrevocable moment that changes everything. Forever. What I take from this is the critical importance of being engaged, of caring enough to put in the time, of trying against all odds to make us safer, happier, and more secure. To do our best.
And so tonight, on the heels of really feeling very intimately just how fragile we are and how a single phone call, a single bullet, can take away all that is precious, I realize that all we can do with this human condition is to do our best and hope for the best. So tonight, I’ll send this out and shut down for a night and spend time with my wife and be grateful. We’ve largely escaped that fateful encounter with our fragile state and we have tomorrow to do our best.