No Pain, No Gain

Over the years, I have often been struck by the number of people who say they want to see something positive done about the problem of gun violence, but do not want to become involved in political action or vigorous public debate. They seem to think it somehow unseemly or impolite to engage on this serious issue in the political or public relations arena. This is a recipe for total failure.

The great 19th century American political philosopher, Frederick Douglass, accurately described the problem when he stated: “The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its waters.” “Power concedes nothing without a demand,” Douglass concluded. “It never did, and it never will.”

Right now, the gun lobby holds a tremendous amount of power in this country, and legislators are doing its bidding because they are not hearing often enough from the majority of Americans who want sensible gun laws and safe communities. If we want something done about the problem of gun violence, we will have to get our hands dirty, get ourselves involved in the political struggles-local, state and federal-that can make a real difference. We have to write letters to the editor, attend local community meetings, meet with state legislators, participate in demonstrations, raise our voices. And yes, even be willing to face the nasty, vitriolic rants of those who disagree with us and want to intimidate us into remaining silent.

Otherwise, our fate has already been written by Douglass: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.”

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