So I’m watching the most recent episode of my favorite current TV show, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” a few days ago with my wife, and we were viewing the segment Oliver did on how, even though it seems we’ve come so far on gay rights in America, there are still areas of blatant discrimination, and we shouldn’t forget that.
And I got to thinking about progress. Progress is sometimes easy to spot on social issues; we no longer have “white-only” bathrooms in public places, and there are ramps for handicapped people in millions of public buildings.
We’re making progress on so many significant issues in the U.S.: Awareness of global warming, the environment, race relations, scientific breakthroughs about disease, and too many other areas to mention.
But as once again was made painfully clear last week, we are making zero progress on the issue of gun violence. Like, literally, NONE.
Two young journalists were murdered, on live television, by a disturbed man who had absolutely no problem getting a gun. And the usual cycle of these things began to repeat itself: Outrage over the act, followed by powerful pieces in the media, like this one by Nicholas Kristof, illustrating just how deadly gun violence is in America (this stat blew me away: More Americans have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.)
We heard from Alison Parker’s father, who wants to be the “John Walsh” of gun control, referring to the “America’s Most Wanted” host who, after his son was murdered, became a tireless advocate for changing laws.
We will hear hand-wringing from politicians, and hear political strategist flap their lips (one GOP operative said on “Meet the Press” Sunday that for anything to change in our gun control laws, it’ll have to be Republican legislators who move the needle, since Democrats have fought all they can and gotten nothing done. Sadly, he’s probably right.), and then … pffft. Nothing will happen.
Progress is disgustingly unattainable in this area, and I’m damn tired of it. I’m going to stop asking what it will take, or how many more have to die, because after a while you just get tired of spitting in the wind.
Progress seems so promising in so many areas. But here? We couldn’t find progress with a damn GPS.
**Next up today, I honestly don’t know if you will find this next thing funny, or offensive and slightly racist. I found it really funny.
My cousin Rob and I have both, independently, recently discovered the awesomeness of a website called Fiverr.com, where basically people offer their services and expertise for five bucks. Somebody offers to make you a ringtone of anything, or will update your resume for you, or any one of a thousand tasks.
One guy advertised on there that he’s an English teacher in India, and for $5 he will teach his Indian students to say in English whatever you want them to say.
So Rob, being a creative soul, decided to use $5 to have a bunch of little kids trash-talk the other members of his fantasy football league.
I mean, the kids are learning English from this, right?
**Finally today, this fantastic story by Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times was really moving. It’s about a California man named Juan Romero, who was a 17-year-old busboy working at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, the night Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan.
In this famous photograph, it’s Romero who is cradling Kennedy’s head for a few moments. Minutes earlier Romero had shaken Kennedy’s hand, and now he watched the presidential candidate die.
The events of that day, understandably, haunted Romero for decades, and despite what anyone said or did, he felt incredible guilt and remorse about what happened.
Until finally, a complete stranger from Germany named Claudia Zwiener heard about Romero and reached out to help.
This is really a tremendous story by Lopez, whose work I try to highlight here as often as I remember to. It sometimes takes decades for wounds to heal, and for a person troubled by one moment of their past to let go.