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Obama and Umpqua

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Obama’s reaction to yesterday’s horrific and tragic events was predictable and banal.  He said, “And each time this happens I’m going to bring this up.” And so, each time this happens he forces the rest of us to make the same tired responses.  Let’s discuss four characteristics of his response.

Obama’s response to Umpqua is myopic.  All Obama sees in these events is the gun or guns.  He pays lip service to other things, but all he sees is the gun.  This speech was made before the victims or the shooter were identified; he could not possibly see them.  Therefore, he could not see the individual circumstances of those most directly affected by these heinous events.  All he saw was the gun.

Obama’s response to Umpqua fails to grieve.  He says, “We’ve become numb to this.”  Well, clearly he is numb since it took him but minutes to make his speech – no grief, no sorrow, only his political point.  The rest of us need some time to grapple with the emotional consequences of something this ugly.  We need time to grieve.

Obama’s response to Umpqua is egocentric.  He presumes that his numbness is our numbness.  But more, his failure to vary his response even slightly to the now fifteen such instances during his administration indicates a presumption on his part that he is infallibly correct.  He complains that he cannot get a gun law through Congress, but fails to realize that there might be other things he can do.  He is obsessed with his failure to pass a gun law; he does not care about actually doing something that matters.

Which brings me to the fourth characteristic of Obama’s response to Umpqua – the one that is most disheartening of all.

Obama’s response to Umpqua presumes that government action is the highest, best and only genuine response to a tragedy such as this.  He says, “Well, this is something we should politicize.”  As if to say, when it is really important and it is really tragic, government and politics is the only reasonable response.

That certainly was never the intent of the Founders.  Government, particularly federal government, was never supposed to have that level of importance or intrusion into the lives of individuals.  But it is actually much deeper than that.  Events like Umpqua certainly indicate some sort of mental disturbance in the actor, but the recurrence of these events indicates some sort of sickness in our society generally.  Law cannot fix culture.

It is difficult to think of a book like the Bible, spanning literally thousands of years and having multiple authors writing in multiple forms and languages, as having a “grand narrative.”  But in some sense there is one – at least in the flow of ideas from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  In the Old Testament God is attempting to fix the world through law and a nation.  And then in the New Testament, as if God realized that His OT approach was not working (I know the theological/temporal difficulties with that statement, but let’s just go with it for now), He changes His approach to trying to fix what is broken inside people, knowing that when that is fixed society and culture, thus the world, will follow in the wake.

It seems Obama has not learned a lesson that even God “learned.”  There are limits to what law and government can fix.  There is a deep, deep brokenness in events like those that occurred in Umpqua yesterday.  No law, no government can fix something that broken. Not only does Obama insist that government can fix it, but whenever the opportunity presents itself he seeks to limit the influence of those ideas, forces and agencies that just might have a shot at it.  Einstein’s definition of insanity most definitely comes to mind.

What happened in Umpqua yesterday was a tragedy of immense proportion.  You’ll have to excuse me. Now that I have pushed the spotlight stealing egocentric jerk out of the way, I need to go cry.


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