By John Borst, Past President Rotary Club of Dryden

Note: I have taken the literary liberty of imagining myself in the shoes of an American.

Welcome to America, land of the living dead. It is a fact we woke up to on the morning of Oct 2, 2017. Another mass murder had taken place at about 10:05 pm local time when shots rang out on Route 91, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This time the number of dead set another modern-day record of 59 with another 500+ injured.

This time, however, a new reality has set in. It is something that didn’t quite happen with the 49 dead at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, or the 32 at Virginia Tech or even the 26, mostly 5 and 6 year old’s, at Sandy Hook Elementary School to name just three of our worse previous massacres.

Maybe, it is not the number of deaths that has triggered the new reality but the number of injured. If you take the top 12 previous mass executions the number of injured ranges between 4 and 50. Taken together you don’t even get close to the number 500.

But it even goes deeper, much deeper than that.  This time we have awoken to the fact that we are all injured. Out psych’s are shot. We too are traumatized just like the other concertgoers who now daily replay those rat-ta-tat-tat sounds in their head and give thanks that they were not hit.

As cameras are now ubiquitous, we have all heard the rat-ta-tat-tat of those bullets being fired into the hapless crowd below. We all cringe at the thought of being there.

TrangBang300x197That kind of impact has happened once before in America. The day was June 8, 1972, and Nick Ut took a picture of 9-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc running naked down the road in Trang Bang in Vietnam.  That one scene created a new reality of what we were doing in Vietnam and the beginning of the end of that senseless war had begun. Until then we had been morally dead to its reality.

Ironically the reassertion of America’s national impulse to do good combined with the lessons of the civil rights movement leads us in a straight line, 50 years later, to our internecine war over guns.

Unwittingly, the Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock may have taken us to the breaking point. This time the reaction in the major traditional media has decried how nothing will change. After all, if we couldn’t create any sane legislation in reaction to the death of school children with Sandy Hook then we now know that we are doomed to live with the scourge of mass executions of our citizens. Virginia Tech and Orlando just proved it.

Commentators have written about our collective responsibility for our tolerance of mass-shootings and the lack of follow-up legislation. Others have even noted the “white privilege” associated with how such acts are processed by the nation. This depth of introspection is unprecedented.

Likewise, the wide-scale publication of our death rate by firearms compared to other nations has awakened us to what is possible. Perhaps our collective guilt may yet motivate us to demand of our legislators that something is done to bring us more in-line with other nations.

Even the National Rifle Association has recognized they have a problem on their hands and appear willing to sacrifice “bump stocks” in order to prevent more comprehensive gun control legislation from being formulated. Already their more radical members are expressing betrayal for such a concession.

The inescapable conclusion of Paddock’s action is that the “tipping point” has been breached and that this, as the NRA has shown, is time for a peaceful collective uprising such as the Nation hasn’t seen for nearly 50 years. Like the anti-war protests over Vietnam, it will be a long and protracted battle.

One idea for action put forward by one Tom Larkin is consistent with a capitalist society.

..  To fix the gun problem, the peace-loving people of the US need to garner a lesson from the people of Soweto, South Africa. One of the major influences that brought about the end of apartheid was strictly commercial boycotting of stores and business that supported it. When the population of the US that want change in the gun laws starts to boycott any and all businesses that support guns things WILL change. The consumer has an incredible amount of clout, “even more than politicians”, they just have to believe in themselves and suffer small inconveniences in their purchasing to make a BIG change. It can start at the individual and grassroots level. It might take a little time, BUT when business starts losing revenue, watch how fast they put the pressure on politicians! The gun problem IS solvable. Like minded people need to get together and commit to not supporting businesses that support anything to do with guns or supporting the NRA. The populous CAN DO IT. They just have to believe in themselves and organise.”

It is unlikely any action will ever be taken by Rotary Clubs, however, individual Rotarians can use their leadership skills to search out like-minded members and lead community activists in such a boycott.

Some diseases take a long time to develop and manifest themselves. In 2011 such a malady took over my spouse’s body. It was called Polyarteritis Nodosa (PAN). In plain English, her immune system misfired and began attacking her own organs and tissue.

Like our body’s immune system, the Second Amendment was meant to be America’s immune system against foreign incursions. For a variety of reasons in the 70’s that system began to misfire and to undermine the very “organs” it was designed to protect.

My wife died. Let’s not let that happen to America.