Sunday, Sep 23, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Keith Burris

We are in trouble


    From left, Josh McKerrow, Tim Prudente, Pat Furgurson, and Chase Cook work on an edition of the Capital Gazette in a parking garage. Their newsroom was a crime scene after five of their colleagues were shot and killed there on June 28.


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    Keith Burris.

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Keith Burris.

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I have been putting off writing about the shooting at at the Capital Gazette, in Annapolis, Maryland. I am at a loss.

We are in trouble in this country. We are living in a crazy time, a bad time.

Yes, medicine and science keep marching forward. But our culture is sick and getting sicker. And we need to face it and begin to come to grips with it.

Five colleagues in journalism were gunned down in their newsroom.

Read more by Keith Burris

But, as a Mexican citizen said about the number of political assassinations in this election season in Mexico, “murders of all people are on the rise.”

Easy, from afar, to shake your head and wonder what is wrong in that country.

What is wrong here?

School shootings every week? Little children murdered at their desks, and members of Congress paralyzed, as they are on most things? You’re really telling me there is nothing, nothing that can be done?

Chicago: It’s a shooting gallery. Three little girls shot in their car last weekend where they sat with their mother. Shot in gang crossfire.

How long can this go on? Let’s stipulate that there is no one, big answer. But neither has the response, thus far, been sufficient.

Can’t something more be tried in Chicago: Calling in the National Guard? Starting a guns for jobs program to break the gangs? Summoning Fr. Greg Boyle from LA to advise on how to develop gang alternatives? He knows how to disarm gang members, heart by heart.

Barack Obama, light to many Americans, hero to Chicagoans, tackle saving Chicago the way Jimmy Carter took on Habitat for Humanity. Please.

Is gun violence now a way of life in America? About what other chronic problem in America — from AIDS to cars that are “unsafe at any speed” — have Americans ever said “not much can be done”?

I am for a full-blown, federal schools security program. As Andrew Pollack, father of Meadow, killed in Parkland, told at a gathering at the White House: Secure the schools first. We will not get gun control done any time soon.

But we could. We could. Better background checks and gun restraining orders for people on the no-fly list, people with serious mental illness, or people with a history of violence, are just common sense steps. These small restraints would not be an impediment to the Second Amendment and everyone sane knows it. No right is absolute and no right comes without duty.

And banning some weapons — we ban tanks and grenades and bazookas for the general populace now — is wholly rational and constitutional. Ask just about any police chief or DA.

But it’s way deeper than guns isn’t it? And we all know that, too.

A stabbing at a baby’s birthday party. The oldest man in America robbed of his entire bank account. How about Sen. Rand Paul, one of the most singularly honest and courageous members of Congress? He had to be physically courageous this year. Mr. Paul recently revealed that a man threatened to chop up his family with an ax.

Yep, that fine citizen called in the threat to Mr. Paul’s Bowling Green, Kentucky, office.

“It’s just horrendous that we have to deal with things like this” Mr. Paul said. “That on top of … a very serious life-threatening attack on my person and then being shot at, I’ve had a year where I’m becoming more and more aware we have these real threats out there.”

I knew about the crazed neighbor who brutally assaulted Mr. Paul. But shot at? I wondered as I read that. Did I know about that? And then I recalled the congressional baseball game. I forgot that Rand Paul was there. But not that some members of Congress who were shot at were hit. And one, Steve Scalise, almost died.

We are in trouble in this country. We have an anger problem. Indeed, a hate problem, as well as a gun problem.

And the righteous Trumpers who shout down protesters at rallies, and the lefties who accost public figures in restaurants, and seek to scare the hell out of them, and the washed up Hollywood star who calls for the President’s son to be caged with pedophiles, and the President, himself, who calls the press “the enemy of the people” — they all are feeding the monster of contempt and rage.

And I cannot say, in the wake of the horrendous newsroom shootings: Fear not the free press will prevail, it will keep shining a light. That is more denial. It will take tremendous perseverance for a serious press to survive. Our industry has lost so much readership and we are still seeking the new markets for great journalism. What if Americans, in the end, prefer blogging and Facebook and following the newest Kardashians to journalism?

We are not, in any case, doing much great journalism. We are doing too much gossip and tribal journalism. We are not shining a light of insight often enough. We are, too often, joining the noise, and, sometimes, the contempt.

We are in trouble in this country. We have a sick culture — a sick American soul. And until all of us begin to ask each other’s pardon and the help of some higher power, we are going to sink deeper into the morass.

There, I said it: We have a spiritual crisis in America. And only spiritual renewal can answer it. The culture wars are ultimately about how we do not respect each other and refuse to listen to each other. The guns wars are about our lack of respect for life, which includes the fish dying in the ocean, the convict on death row, and the unborn.

We will never respect any of those lives without a spiritual awakening, without a religious revival — not via any one religion, mind you, but many. We need them all: Buddhism, Hinduism, Orthodox Judaism, TM, Bahaism, Sufism, Christian mysticism, and Christian evangelicals.

Without the intentional pursuit of kindness and goodness, of the spirit life, of divinity in our private lives as Americans, we will wither and perish in our common public life. We will continue to split apart.

Keith C. Burris is editor and vice president of The Blade, and editorial director for Block Newspapers. Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.

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