'Love and fight.' Mayor Steinberg urges action at vigil for gun violence victims

'Love and fight.' Mayor Steinberg urges action at vigil for gun violence victims

Mayor Steinberg joined Congresswoman Doris Matsui in speaking at an interfaith vigil for gun violence victims held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Church on Friday, Aug. 9. Below is a text of his remarks:

Thank you Congresswoman Matsui, my friend, for your courage in fighting for just laws that would actually make a difference in ending this scourge. Thank you to the men and women and children who are here tonight in faith and solidarity.

I know that members of our Jewish community would be here tonight, but they are having their own moments of silence and reflection and prayer in our synagogues as it is our Shabbat, but I’m happy to be here.

Last weekend he city of El Paso suffered the deadliest attack on Latinos in modern American history. The people of Dayton suffered unspeakable loss as well. And tonight’s lengthy – I thought it might never end—recitation of all of our other losses, from Gilroy and Charleston and Orlando and Littleton and, 30 years ago, Cleveland school in Stockton, and so many in between.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg with Congresswoman Doris Matsui, right, and the Rev. Canon Megan M. Traquair, elected earlier this year as the new bishop of the  Episcopal Diocese of Northern California.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg with Congresswoman Doris Matsui, right, and the Rev. Canon Megan M. Traquair, elected earlier this year as the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California.

Where does it end? The killer in El Paso, whose name does not deserve mention, drove 10 hours to a Walmart because, as he told police when he was arrested, he wanted to shoot Mexicans with his AK 47. The picture of this young man, barely an adult, shooting people because of their race with a weapon of war, is a sick snapshot of the toxic contagion taking hold in this country.

To the politicians who rationalize and obfuscate: Do not dare stigmatize mental illness by associating this killer with the millions of Americans who suffer from mental illness and act lovingly and peacefully every day.

Here is what must be said this evening.: Combine a diet of racist hate online, amplified by our commander and chief, the person who is supposed to bring us together in times of crisis. Add the ease of obtaining weapons of mass destruction and the results are heart breaking and frankly not surprising.

Children, peace-loving people, people shopping, people playing, people living their lives, die, and they die in the most cruel ways. The culture of unending gun violence in our country is both historic and a modern stain on our country. An equal stain is a political culture that does not allow for the ban of massive, rapid-fire assault rifles. An equal stain is a political culture that holds it to be controversial to allow the authorities to simply check on someone’s background before they are issued a weapon.

Clergy members perform a liturgy for victims of mass shootings in the United States

Clergy members perform a liturgy for victims of mass shootings in the United States

The current reality that the federal government is paralyzed and can do nothing will not hold. Racist hat killers can’t kill shoppers in a Walmart if they aren’t armed. There is nothing inconsistent about saying we must love more, and we must fight more. If climate change literally threatens the physical planet, then bigotry, loneliness and alienation literally threaten the existence of the precious human beings that inhabit the planet.

The vast majority of troubled young people don’t do what this person did in El Paso, Texas. But if we as a society continue to fail to observe, to understand and to attend to young people who are disconnected, who show signs for many years; we fail to pay attention at our peril.

If we fail to love, we enable hate. If we do not speak out and speak up and counter white supremacy and its sickening cousins; if we do not insist on political accountability for those who use white supremacy and race baiting and division as  a political tool, then shame on all of us. For Hitler only had his way because few people in the times challenged the great lies.

Do not accept, and we must not accept, the common refrain that nothing will ever change. However long it takes to change the laws and the culture around gun violence it will be too long but never too late. Elections matter. No one believed it possible in the day to create legal equality for all people. No one believed in their day that diseases that were automatically deadly are today chronic or curable.

A great leader once told us in another time of great peril, “Never give up and never give in.”

Love and fight. Love and fight. Love and fight.

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