Since the senseless and mind-numbing tragedy in Colorado last week, we’ve heard so many heartbreaking stories of personal heroism shown by brave individuals during those awful minutes of chaos and terror. Parents shielded their children. Men fell on their wives and girlfriends, sacrificing their own lives to save their loved ones. In those moments, courage can’t be calculated. It happens by pure instinct.
It’s only later, after our so-called leaders have had time to check their polling data, that we get to measure their political courage — or their lack of it. Character can’t be focus-grouped. Courage isn’t poll driven.
When John F. Kennedy wrote “Profiles in Courage,” he told the stories of men who were willing to sacrifice career for country — who took unpopular positions because they believed in them, despite the political risks.
During the last week, there’s been a lot of talk about how this isn’t “the right time” to talk about the stampeding elephant in the room — our national obsession with guns and how easy it is for crazy people to get them.
When, exactly, would be the right time? When angels with harps come down from heaven and land on Wayne LaPierre? When a herd of unicorns is shot by a hunter with an AK-47? When Beavis or Butthead is allowed to buy a rocket launcher without a background check?
If an airplane crashes, we talk about making them safer. If a plane is flown into a building by terrorist passengers, we make our airports more secure (or we pretend to — don’t get me started). But 30,000 Americans are killed every year by guns, yet we’re always told it’s not “the right time” to talk about it, that doing so “politicizes” a tragedy.
Over the last week, at least two elected leaders haven’t been afraid to speak out against this insanity. They are my personal nominees for present-day “profiles in courage.”
One of them is the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg. He’s not intimidated by anybody, certainly not the NRA. For the last six years, he’s organized more than 600 of his fellow mayors into a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
He called on President Obama and Mitt Romney to take a stand last week, saying: “Soothing words are nice, but maybe it’s time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they’re gonna do about it.” Amen, Mr. Mayor!
The other profile in courage is New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. Her husband was killed and her son was severely injured on a commuter train after a mass murderer randomly opened fire on the passengers. It was her personal experience that compelled her to run for office and try to prevent that same kind of unimaginable loss from ever happening to another family. She is a dignified and eloquent voice — and often a lonely one — against the NRA’s quarter-billion-dollar lobbying and public relations machine.
Mayor Bloomberg and Congresswoman McCarthy are on the right side of history. Let’s join them.
(Photo: Getty Images)