Scream

“The Scream” Edvard Munch, 1893

During the years I spent mostly in my studio as a working artist, I would occasionally reflect on Norwegian Edvard Munch’s famous portrait “Scream,” a sordid face reflecting the terrorized human condition.

I preferred images of flowers and photographs of my children. But I never was far from Munch’s ghastly scream.

I stumbled into this week still trying to come to grips with the racial hatred that motivated a slaughter in Buffalo. Then came Uvalde: Nineteen children’s bodies near those of two adults who tried to save them. How do I deal with this? What do I say, and to whom?

Jennifer Rubin is absolutely right: “No sane society would permit this.” Gun reform was adopted in a matter of days after shootings in New Zealand, Australia, England and elsewhere. The argument that constitutional “freedom” gives every American 18-year-old the right to bear weapons of war is clearly insane. Look at the evidence. Listen to Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson famously declare that the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

I believe in prayer but it feels both hypocritical and profane to call for prayer while merely shaking our heads over mass shootings. God knows we’ve had occasion to make change, starting in 1966 when Charles Whitman first climbed the tower at the University of Texas to get clear shots at the 16 people he killed and 49 more he wounded. Our schools have been killing grounds ever since.

We’ve elected officials who have such cowardice they prefer praying over bodies of children to showing some courage by confronting the N.R.A. at its Texas gathering. The money pouring forth from the gun lobby is blood money, every drop of it. Any politician who wraps his hands around that money has no right to wring his hands in a charade of grief and call for prayer.

Prayer isn’t what we need today, as if this is God’s problem. Robert Hubbell rightly noted last night, the problem is ours to address. Adopting laws and policies that prohibit such shootings is our job now. “It’s on us.”

Until the “leadership” of this country acts, not with a call to prayer but with a set of policies and laws, scream. Go ahead, scream. It’s at least an honest response to Uvalde and Buffalo and a half-century of our children’s innocent blood.

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