By Ted Braun
During his inauguration ceremonies earlier this week, President Obama used two Bibles for his oath-taking: one belonging to Abraham Lincoln and the other to Martin Luther King, Jr. Interestingly, these two choices had a common connecting link: both of these two men were martyred by gun violence.
Obama has listed gun violence as one of his key agenda issues for these next four years. Our nation’s conversation on this particular issue has already picked up momentum. However, we haven’t yet included in this conversation our early American forefathers who sought to keep the two basic issues of gun rights and gun controls in balance as much as possible.
For example, in colonial times public officials in New Hampshire and Rhode Island went door-to-door to catalog gun ownership in each community. In Massachusetts militia laws required all gun owners to appear annually in public with arms—musket rifles—for government inspection and listing on a statewide gun registry. There were also laws designating where ammunition could be stored. In numerous western towns, guns had to be surrendered to local lawmen when their owners were within city limits. So far, Obama has focused mainly on seeking to pass a ban on assault weapons and limiting the sale of magazines containing more than ten rounds.
In his inauguration speech Obama mentioned a number of additional subjects that we needed to be focusing on in the next four years: climate change, immigrant policy, gay marriage, and economic issues such as health care and social security. But even more important and basic than these was the challenge of strengthening our American values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: developing a basic national ethos of bringing hope to the poor, sick, and marginalized, and “turning enemies into friends.”
Obama, unfortunately, didn’t comment on our basic national sickness: the greed built into our limitless capitalist expansion, the ongoing curtailment of our civil liberties, and our situation of permanent global war with its major claim on our national resources and treasury.
Obama gave this inauguration speech on January 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but didn’t mention one of King’s most profound criticisms of our nation given in a sermon at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, a year before he was assassinated: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
King also said in the same sermon: “When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
There is one other important King quote from that same year: “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.” As author Norman Solomon commented last week: “King: I Have a Dream. Obama: I Have a Drone.”
Fasten your seat belts as we ride into the next four years.
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This column is sponsored by Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice and dedicated by the local writers to the theme that the lion and the lamb can and must learn to live together and grow in their relationship toward one another to ensure a better world. Opinions expressed in “Lion and the Lamb” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact Ted Braun, editor, at 277-5135.