What We Have in Common

Bike racers compete for leadership on the straight track. Tattorman 74

While volunteering at the Cap-Tex Triathlon in Austin on Memorial Day, I met a woman preparing to ride her bike for 13.3 miles and run for three. The petite redhead has a great smile, and we quickly learned we’d both spent time in Milwaukee and the Chicago area. She had an accent I could not place immediately—she grew up in Poland. I knew her home country had taken in nearly a million people from Ukraine. Before I could express gratitude, the woman said her relatives in Poland were trying to locate her brother and his family in Kyiv. They hadn’t heard from them since the beginning of the war. It brought the war to a very personal note.

We did not end on a sad note but we agreed that when we meet someone one-on-one and learn about them, we learn about what we have in common, not what makes us different.

She went on her bike, and I helped others in “transition” between swim and bike, bike and run. Across the lane from me, a group of male and female Latinos heralding from Mexico, Central, and South America, and a contingency of home-grown Texans encouraged bikers as they left on their rides and called them in as they switched out with swimmers and runners in the relay.

Athletes came in every color, shape, and size, ignoring the heat (97-100 degrees) for the most part and wanting to beat their former time or set a new one. Achieving their best—that centered their thoughts.

While Americans are known for being competitive, we also reach out to help others. We can’t solve all the wrongs globally, but we have come up to the plate when the odds were stacked against vulnerable people. We take pride in our ability to help, often by gathering other countries into partnership. We are involved in Ukraine. No one wants a bully on their block.

We try to keep bullies from destroying other countries (knowing that bullies are only encouraged by any victory using their “power” against others). Likewise, we cannot allow powerful gun lobbies to destroy our peaceful playgrounds, school classrooms, movie theatres, and churches, making them battlefields where we fear to go.

Now twenty-three years after the Columbine High School shootings and all the senseless loss of life since, can we say, “ENOUGH? Not another person, young or old, will lose their life to the spray of bullets coming from an AK15.” Will we make certain background checks are not quick paperwork, focused on making a sale? Will we admit there is no peaceful purpose for a 100-round ammunition magazine and ban them?

The frontier-man actor, Reagan, carried weight with the gun lobby. Yet he supported the 1993 Brady Bill, named for his Press Secretary, paralyzed for life in the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life 12 years earlier. Neither would have survived if a bullet spray from an AK15 had hit them.

Reagan supported a mandatory background check and a five-day waiting period for gun purchases by unlicensed individuals in 1993. The federal assault weapons ban passed in 1994, prohibiting gun manufacturers from creating assault weapons for civilian use and banning large-capacity magazines. Unfortunately, the ban ended in 2004, and mass shootings increased again.

The inability to reign in the gun lobby despite the 10-year ban on assault weapons became apparent after the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. In the bombing, 168 people were killed, including 19 children in daycare, and 680 were injured. (I visited the site four years later when I was there on business.)

The response from NRA’s Wayne LaPierre? He defended the bombers as responding to “jack-booted government thugs.” But his anti-government comments were ignored by Congress. NRA “never waivers, never apologizes.” But George Bush resigned his membership after the statement, and 500,000 followed him.

We haven’t experienced repeat bombings. Why? In part because Congress passed legislation prohibiting the sale of large quantities of ammonia and other bomb-making materials to individuals. It’s easier to toat an assault rifle than carry out a full-fledged attack. Why does it seem impossible to reinstate the ban on assault weapons now? We did it before; why can’t we now after repeated needless loss of life?

You don’t find assault rifles used to kill people in Britain, France, Canada, Germany, or many other leading countries.Technology has created a killing machine that entices some moviegoers, but often it is depicted in animation without the pure horror it can create.

George Washington did not revel in killing and would have been horrified that people were being killed in this way. He and those who wrote the Second Amendment carried flintlock rifles, single shots without the ability to destroy a dozen human lives with a single sweep.

When will we be able to gain a rational solution to gun violence—one we can all live with? Please don’t let us lose our grip on the value of human life.

My new friend from Austin’s Cap-Tex came back after her races. A smile still across her face after competing 13 miles on a bike and running two more. We agreed to see each other at the 2023 Cap-Tex and hope the world will right itself by then. But in the meantime, we will appreciate the humanity in every person we meet.


Best Mother’s Day Flowers 2022 Tom’s Guide

Aretha Franklin raised the roof and our self-confidence with that song in 1967. Yes, 55 years ago, but the music resonates to this day. Why? Because as Aretha said: “Everyone wants respect.”

Being respected –no matter what makes the national headlines of the day—is the issue of prime importance. If we feel “dissed” and people don’t consider our needs, we melt on the inside and no longer stand up straight. We may not even look others straight in the eye as our self-confidence has taken a hit.

If you’ve read my blog during the Pandemic, you know that I have struggled to understand what’s really behind the divisions in our country. In the beginning, I thought Americans would find ways to tie the ends of the frayed rope between us after Covid passed. That might have been naïve. The differences among us only tightened when we were stuck away alone. Nothing good comes when we don’t attempt to communicate with others, particularly those with a different view. Instead, we let the concrete set around our ideas and beliefs. Our thoughts spool in our brains in an endless loop. No new ideas arise from that cycle.

It’s more difficult for new friends and ideas to come into our lives if we don’t create room for them. No two people think exactly alike, so there will always be areas of difference, possibly disagreement. Our current friendships already have a foundation of mutual respect that allows us to patch over the rough times when conflicts arise. But when we encounter people or ideas that appear to be the polar opposite of our own, it’s even more challenging to grant them a moment’s consideration.

I know listening to “the other side” strains my patience when I strongly disagree, but we’re stagnating –yelling across picket lines or opinion pages. This discourse does not improve the situation. Instead, we find ourselves digging a deep crevice across which are lobbed some of the ugliest words and images ever used in American public discourse (and there has been strong language used in the past). We are providing a hideous example for our children and laying down an embarrassing digital record that will live long after 2022.

If we as a nation take a small step back from this, we might begin to make a long-term change. Of course, it will take more than a finger snap to solve. But we can start by offering respect to all the people we meet at work, no matter the job they perform, the process can begin. Then if we can carry this on to those we see at the grocery or on a walk, the ball could get rolling. Even our partners and children could appreciate a spur-of-the-moment friendly smile or a nod of understanding. 

None of this will cure what ails the world, but you might feel better yourself, and it might be contagious.

That’s all I’ve got for Mother’s Day 2022.