T'was Election Day 2017

Virginia is unique; every year there's an election. We have an annual opportunity to set a political course. The politicians on the ballots build their platforms based on what they view as the biggest challenges facing the Commonwealth, but we give them power. This is an awesome responsibility. An informed electorate is the best defense against those who would willfully distort facts in order to gain access to legislative and executive powers.

Being an informed voter is more difficult than it use to be. There are so many negative campaign ads that trying to focus on what's important to our daily lives has become work. This is a sad reality, but it doesn't absolve us of our civic responsibility. Every voter has an obligation to the generations of Virginians who will be affected by decisions made at the ballot box.

Ed Gillespie’s plan of capping Medicaid would be bad for all Virginians, but it would be disastrous for the Blue Ridge Mountains. Medicaid provides health coverage to eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Any cuts to this program will adversely affect the lives of some of the most vulnerable citizens in the Commonwealth.

According to the “Local Department of Social Services Profile Report 2016” there 838 citizens in Bath County who were enrolled in the Medicaid program. These are our neighbors. These are the kids we cheer for at sporting events. These are the people we sit beside in church. For too long the debate at the center of what role the government should play in providing for citizens has been hijacked by people who view poverty as a sign of moral failure. Suffering economic hardships is hard enough without being stigmatized for it.

Ed Gillespie’s tax plan doesn’t make him a bad person. It just proves that he doesn’t look at the world through the same lens as a mother or father raising children on stagnated wages. In Bath County over half of the students in our schools are eligible for free or reduced lunches. Many of those same children are covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program or (CHIP). These kids did not choose the circumstances they were born into. If you wouldn’t look a kid in the eyes and take their breakfast or lunch tray from them why would you cast a vote for someone proposing budget cuts that would effectively do the same thing?

Gutting the social safety net for the sake of tax cuts is immoral; it's antithetical to the 25th chapter of Saint Matthew and the Christian belief that what we do for the least of these we do for God. Budgets are moral documents because they set forth our priorities. I could be wrong, but I don’t think anyone can properly  pursue happiness without the necessary tools to preserve life. I don’t want to live in a society that views the needs of children as negotiable budgetary issues. Don't just listen to what politicians say watch what they do and make a decision based on what's best for the future.


America's Latest Mass Shooting

Twenty-six people were killed during America's latest mass shooting. First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas joined a growing list of places this shouldn't happen. A list that should include everywhere. This is the 377th mass shooting this year. We average more than one mass shooting a day. We have a problem that we don't seem too interested in fixing.

Writing about mass shootings got old a long time ago, but not nearly as old as our canned response to them. These tragedies have happened so often that they have become part of our life. This is the new normal and our responses have become ritualized. America's inability to respond legislatively after Sandy Hook broke my spirit, and I know I'm not the only one. I mourn those who are lost and sympathize with the people tasked with rebuilding shattered lives, but I am numb. I think a lot of us are numb. We offer our thoughts and prayers and then split into our respective corners and debate. We talk because talking is easier than acting. Talking allows us to defend ourselves and our political ideologies. Talking is our coping mechanism.




Instead of talking maybe we should address high occupancy magazines and semiautomatic weapons that can easily be modified? We look for reasons not to do this. If the killer is African-American​ their actions are chalked up to their "upbringing" or black people's "knack for committing crimes". If the shooter is Latino we can avoid gun control legislation all together by talking about building walls and banishing people. Muslim shooter's are terrorists who hate "real Americans". If the killer is white their actions said to be the result of a mental health issue; we're told it's too soon to politicize a tragedy and in a few weeks we pretend it didn't happen. All of these excuses fall short of dealing with the real issue and none of them protect us from being the victims of or affected by the next tragedy.

We have to come to grips with the fact that sending our thoughts and prayers isn't solving this problem. This doesn't keep happening because we aren't praying hard enough. Too many Christians are praying for cake, but refuse to use the eggs, flowers, oil and milk God placed in front of them. There is nothing wrong with praying, but we have to pray and then act. It's that simple. No, we can't prevent an evil person from committing murder, but we can limit the methods and tools they use to carry out their deeds. 

Playing politics with mass shootings makes us look smaller than we are. We choose to be powerless. We choose to avoid the tough work of making these killings harder to pull off. We choose to be accessories to these crimes. America is governed by laws that can be amended. We can amend laws that put us in danger, but we don't have the moral conviction to do so. We are not passengers​: we are holding the wheels of justice, but they won't turn themselves.