By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
Once again our nation is in shock after the worse gun violence massacre in American history: 58 innocent people killed and more than 500 people severely wounded and/or injured during a Las Vegas concert.
At the time of this horrific attack, the nation was in the midst of recovering from three catastrophic hurricanes that left major areas of our country, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands overwhelmed and powerless.
Each tragic circumstance brought out the best in our American spirit. Countless heroes risking their lives to save others; the spirit of selflessness and compassion has been inspirational. If only those in elected office learned from the power of their example!
These past few months the public discourse across the country has bordered on disgraceful. The demeaning rhetoric is fueling the heat and violence that is erupting across our nation.
The recent debate around the actions of many NFL football players regarding the appropriate posture during our national anthem has sparked a national conversation that all Americans should be attentive to. No matter what your politics, the conversation it has provoked around racism, police violence and hatred is vital. We need to discuss these issues with passion, commitment and open hearts but grounded in a profound respect for one another.
So many of the events that have erupted since January have underscored that there are many serious social issues that as a nation we must confront. They go beyond the scope of our differences around health care and tax reform.
Our criminal justice system is in dire need of reform. The way we treat drug addicts who commit nonviolent crimes is scandalous and needs to be addressed. The growing incidences of discrimination based on race, religion and sexual orientation need to take center stage as part of the national agenda.
The social indifference that has become so infectious is counterproductive. By our silence, we affirm the destructive behaviors and destructive rhetoric that have become a cancer among us.
We need to be more proactive on every level. Our students need to be a part of these important conversations. The average citizen needs to become more involved in our political process and understand that his/her voice does matter and does make an important difference.
The people’s voice needs to be heard. Those who have been elected must be held accountable to the people who elected them — not to a specific political party.
These are challenging times; however, we are all part of the challenge. We must lead by example. Our churches, synagogues and mosques must address the social issues and become a part of the national conversation. Our clerical leadership must urge their congregants to take a more active role in the political landscape of our communities.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world!” Hope must be the anthem of our souls.
Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.