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Editorial: Does the common good mean anything anymore?

Our May 19 editorial was written after the massacre of Black people in a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store. This is how that editorial ended: One day someone will write a book titled “Bury My Heart at Newtown” (26 dead); or “Bury My Heart at Charleston” (nine Black men and women murdered in their church); or “Bury My Heart at El Paso” (22 dead in a Walmart); or “Bury My Heart at Pittsburgh” (11 murdered in a synagogue). Now we can add “Bury My Heart at Buffalo” (10 dead) to that list. Just change the location and a new book can be published every few months.

We should have said “weeks,” not months. The murders that took place May 24 in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, (21 dead) adds yet another title to the growing library of American disgrace and, once again, points to a country incapable of addressing its problems and, with that failure, speeding its own decline. 

We won’t waste more space decrying our national politicians, a laughingstock of party hacks who can’t get anything done, even when the lives of children are at stake. What we would like to address is a concept that is vital to the day-to-day well-being of a democracy: the common good. It’s been a long while since we heard any politician speak to it. 

Go back into American history for an idea of what the words mean. See American soldiers, many of them the same age as the Texas murderer, landing on the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944. The 78th anniversary of that momentous event is next Monday. They put their lives on the line to end genocidal fascism — for the common good.

Or see the March 7, 1965, march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., by civil rights activists who were beaten up by state troopers in what became known as Bloody Sunday. They were marching not only for their rights but for something larger than themselves — the common good. 

An 18-year-old purchases two military-style assault rifles and nearly 2,000 rounds of ammunition, posts his murderous intent on social media — and no one alerts the authorities. Why? 

Because he has a “right” to purchase all of that. His “rights” trump the common good. How did we fall so far?

The common good is on life support in America, buried under a mountain of spent AR-15 casings and disregarded by politicians who place holding on to power above all else. Also on life support is the concept that we should be able to trust our elected politicians at the national level to face a crisis head-on and to pursue solutions for the common good. 

By contrast, some of them have made complete fools of themselves. In the aftermath of Uvalde, one U.S. senator said the slaughter occurred because of “woke” philosophy and because critical race theory is taught in our schools. 

CRT is the shiny object one wing of the GOP is pushing, even though they know what they are saying is false. It’s not taught in our schools. They made this all up, and a large portion of the population swallowed it whole to shout out at school board meetings. In some parts of America school board members need bodyguards.

“Woke,” whatever you think it is, had nothing do with the murders. Having said that, there is an intolerant form of McCarthyism on the left, where if a professor says the “wrong” thing he’s run out of town. But that’s not what happened in Texas. 

When asked why any American should be able to buy an AR-15, another U.S. senator said people in his state needed them to shoot feral pigs. A congressman from Arizona said the 18-year-old murderer was a “transsexual, leftist, illegal alien.” This dim bulb of an elected official hit all the buzzwords in his warped view of what’s wrong with America in a single tweet. None of these labels apply to the murderer. Yes, the border with Mexico needs regulation and a system that allows people to come here in the proper way, but again, this had nothing to do with events in Texas. While they have the podium, the Democrats should do more to try to fix the crisis at the southern border — if that is at all possible in the current political climate.

How do we find the common good? How do we stop the decline of this country? 

For starters, don’t elect officials who have their own version of the truth, who say our elections are “rigged” when their candidates lose, who think even a troubled teenager has a “right” to own whatever weaponry he fancies, damn the rest of us, and who think our history should be edited to leave out what actually took place.

The politicians who put the interests of gun manufacturers and the gun lobby ahead of the common good, ahead of the interests of children, should be consigned to the ash heap of history. 

One day, someone or some group really does need to “drain the swamp.”