Roger Ebert died today. I haven’t talked about him much, but in recent years he’s become a real inspiration for me. I knew he was sick, but I didn’t expect that we would lose him so soon.
I forget the exact article I read that keyed me into the fact that Roger Ebert was so much more than just a movie critic, but I began reading his blog. My favorite posts was the ones where he was not writing about movies, but pondering on our polarized political climate, gun violence, and other issues. I think one of his most powerful posts was one of his last, this one: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2013/03/a_shooting_in_harsh_park.html
He doesn’t posture, he doesn’t preach, he simply relates yet another senseless killing by gun related violence. The power of the post comes from the fact that it’s short, for the most part simply relates an incident most of us probably didn’t hear about, and most importantly the final paragraph. You can sense his frustration with humanity, almost defeat in his tone. There’s a world weariness that comes through. He sees this incident through a lens that most of us don’t. This is a story that should have made national news. It should have dominated headlines across the country for weeks. But it didn’t. It was lost in an onslaught of other, equally tragic, gun related murders that happen each and every day. We, as a society, as a people, as humans, should all be working together to find a solution, but we don’t. The only discussion that every happens is political posturing. One side shouts “guns don’t kill people, people kill people!” and the other side shouts “gun control now!” All any of us seem interested in is winning an argument, but in the meantime we continue to kill countless numbers of ourselves every single day.
Gun violence is a complex issue without a single simple solution, but we as a society seem incapable of having a serious honest discussion about it and implementing any kind of solutions at all. It kills one’s faith in humanity.
Gun control is almost certainly part of the solution. What the second amendment actually says aside, I don’t think it’s necessary to ban all weapons, but there is no reason that average citizens in a civilized society need assault weapons designed for combat. An AR-15 has one purpose and one purpose alone, to kill lots of people quickly. It is only being used properly when being used to kill lots of people quickly. Whatever else my be true of the Sandy Hook killer or the Colorado movie killer, they were using their weapons exactly as they were meant to be used. There is no justification for weapons of this sort to be made available to the general public.
But there are so many other factors that factor in to the issue. Poverty, poor education, and economic inequality are all factors that are rectifiable, but we can’t have honest discussions about these issues either.
In short, I share his frustration when watching Americans posture and shout and sling old tired memes around rather than trying to find a way to make life better for anybody. I identified with the man. More than I even knew. Michael Shermer reposted this article written by Ebert then I had never read before:
I didn’t know he was an atheist. It honestly never occurred to me to wonder. He didn’t blog about religion much. He was simply Roger Ebert, human being, supporter of the philosophy of Kindness. I respected and identified with him without even knowing that he was religion-free just like me.
That’s how it ought to be for all of us.
I will miss Roger Ebert. I will miss his thought-provoking insights, his desire to see humanity rise above itself, his powerful intellect. And yes, dear sister, those times when we were kids and would all sit down and watch Siskel and Ebert review the new movies together.
Good-bye, Mr. Ebert. The world was made better for having had you in it.