Editorial: Courage inexplicably left out

Apr. 20, 2013 @ 02:00 PM

Two images are with us today, prominently visible in light of two major developments from the past week.

And on this April Sunday morning, they are teachable moments about courage, what is right and what is so horribly wrong within the greatest country any of us could be so blessed to live in.

The first is from Monday afternoon’s Boston Marathon. The guy in the cowboy hat was Carlos Arrendondo, and the fellow in the wheelchair beside him was Jeff Bauman, whose legs were so badly wounded they would each later be amputated at the knee.

What we didn’t know at the time was Arrendondo once set himself on fire in reaction to learning from Marines his son had died in Iraq. While he was still healing, his other son committed suicide.

On Dec. 14, elementary school students piled into closets and bathrooms with teachers as a gunman opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School. All were afraid. But the only thing the children heard, even if in whispers, were words of love. If the gunman found them, that was what teachers wanted the children to hear last.

Those are rare acts of courage. Senators on Capitol Hill are at the other end of the spectrum. Whether an entity in our community, in Raleigh on Jones Street or in the halls of Congress in Washington, D.C., we have expectations for leaders. They listen to those they serve, and carry out the wishes of the people.

They are neither above nor below, not defined as them or us.

While respected major polling shows Americans want tougher background checks in gun buys, senators defeated a highly compromising proposal Wednesday. Two other gun bills, to ban assault weapons and one to limit large ammunition clips, also failed.

For the record, Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, voted for the background checks and Sen. Richard Burr, a Republican, voted against. And both voted against the other two bills.

Why did all three fail? Senators whose political lifeline, or that of their election opponent, rises and falls with money from groups like the National Rifle Association, just to name one, made selfish, career-minded choices. The people they serve were left out.

So was American courage.