By Bill Mefford
As I have shared previously, Fig Tree Revolution was started by a small group of people who believe we need more than simple tweaks to political, social, economic, and ecclesial systems that continue to marginalize and oppress people. So many systems are dedicated only to their continued existence and they routinely trample on peoples' basic human and civil rights to the point of normalizing repression. We do not need reform. We need revolution.
But we want a nonviolent revolution; a removal of inhumane systems replaced by systems and processes that respect the basic human integrity of every person, particularly those whose voices are most often ignored. This is why the shootings of Rep. Steve Scalise and five other individuals, including the shooter himself, was so disheartening to see on Tuesday. This was not an act of revolution; it was an act of violent madness.
The violence has created an expected and much-needed reflection by political leaders of both parties. But, as equally expected, this reflection has been superficial at best. The call by politicians to stop the harmful and violent rhetoric is something to be welcomed for sure, though we await the cessation of such harmful and violent rhetoric from the one we could call the Commander-in-Chief of harmful and violent rhetoric: the Commander-in-Chief himself. It was donald trump who, during the campaign, hinted that "Second Amendment people" could take action against Hillary Clinton for appointing judges who might uphold sensible gun violence prevention legislation. And the number of Republicans who spoke out against his statement of assassination innuendo? Zero.
It is too much to ask, but my hope would be that their time of reflection would go beyond merely trying to be a little more civil. Perhaps it is time for us to look at the unnecessary violence injected into the world by the politicians who suddenly feel a little guilty for saying bad things about one another and others. Here are a few areas that come to mind for politicians to rethink more than just their speech, but the very policies they are enacting.
Most obvious is the complete unwillingness of Congress, led by the Republican party, to even remotely consider sensible gun violence prevention legislation like a ban on assault weapons (the same weapon the shooter used on Tuesday), the ban of high-capacity magazines (the same kind of magazine the shooter used Tuesday), or universal background checks: none of which would prohibit anyone's right to own or use a gun. What's more, under the complete control of the NRA, Republicans and many Democrats have opposed counting the number of people shot each year, they have opposed allowing government agencies to communicate with one another to determine if "terrorists" who are on the no-fly list can buy firearms, and they have advocated for firearms to be openly carried on college campuses, in state parks, in libraries, in bars, and in houses of worship. There is absolutely no restriction they are in favor of and no law granting further unlimited access they are opposed to. This is violence, but no politician, and certainly no Republican, spoke of rethinking our gun laws in light of the tragedy this week.
When we look at the environment there is tremendous violence being done to God's creation. Led by donald trump, they have pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord and virtually stripped the EPA from doing what the EPA is supposed to do: enforce regulations against predatory polluting corporations. Republicans want to kill all federal fracking regulations, they want to zero out US funding countries hurt by this country's enormous pollution output so that impacted countries without the means to deal with our pollution and negative impact on the environment can do so, they oppose any kind of carbon tax, and they want to abolish any and all regulations that prevent corporations from producing all the carbon emissions they want to. Speaking of abolishing, they want to abolish the EPA altogether! Tuesday's violence brought about no reflection on the violence this Congress is inflicting on God's beautiful creation.
The one saving grace of Tuesday was that the man doing the shooting was white and middle-aged. He wasn't Muslim and he wasn't an immigrant. If he had been, this Congress would have done as they have done in the past when a person of color or a Muslim commits violence - they pass every kind of hurtful legislation they can think of. But when white men commit violence, we know they will be ascribed the title, "lone nut." So, thankfully there won't be endless hearings on how immigrants are terrorizing the countryside, or new agencies created to highlight the harm immigrants have supposedly caused (which is far less than US citizens though this is never mentioned), or numerous bills introduced and passed demonizing immigrants, or new and more harmful Muslim bans rolled out. But, in reflecting on the violence of Tuesday, our politicians have failed to reflect how they have inflicted violence on those who hold minority religious beliefs or those who are sojourners - you know, the sojourners the Bible tells us to welcome.
The politicians' failure to reflect on stopping needless violence does not end at the edges of our shores. The US has done tremendous violence in the name of open trade. In their 2016 platform, the Republicans party states, "We cannot allow foreign governments to limit American access to their markets." This of course leads to colonizing the resources of resource-rich countries. I have seen this firsthand in places like Honduras and Guatemala where the US government has provided arms to oppressive dictatorships to crack down on any grassroots dissent so that US-based corporations can rape those countries of their natural resources to benefit US stockholders. This has resulted in the vast removal of hundreds of thousands of individuals and their families from their native lands (many of whom become immigrants to our country where we work them to death for pennies before we conduct workplace raids and then detain them in private prisons before we deport them on planes owned by private companies back to their countries where they are unable to make a living and often face violence). Protecting US interests is key - remember, we all follow "America first" now, which leads complicit governments like the one in Honduras to murder activists who protest the rape of their countries. This happened to activist Berta Caceras, who was murdered in Honduras because she protested her government's political capitulation to US foreign and economic interests. This is violence that the US should confess and repent of, but no politician spoke of refraining from US dominance on Tuesday. If anything, nationalism was whipped up into a frenzy once again.
Do I want people to be nice to one another? I suppose so. But I have little patience for the politicians who suddenly got a little religion and now want to cool down the rhetoric without ever even stopping to consider that the violence on Tuesday was but a drop in the bucket compared to the violence done every day from the policies both parties have enacted and will continue to do so.
Until there is actual repentance from policies which harm and destroy people in this country and across the world, I am afraid this momentary pause for reflection is nothing but words. Maybe the violence on Tuesday was simply us reaping what we sow.