Time to pull our heads out of all this ‘sand’

January 14, 2013 

It is almost impossible to grasp the impact of the word, “sandy” this past year. Superstorm Sandy flooded huge segments of the East Coast.

Conflict continued in the sandy desserts of Afghanistan. Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut endured an incomprehensible tragedy. And now, the sandy banks of the mighty Mississippi River are revealing the devastating effects of a prolonged drought.

We’ve gone from the innocent pleasures of sand between our toes on warm summer days to sand as a symbol, a reminder, of human and natural disasters. How do we cope with all this – in a humanitarian and economic way?

Almost half of every dollar we spend in this country is borrowed. Just as we pay a payroll tax to fund Social Security, perhaps we need to consider a way to accrue money for a rainy day (literally).

Thousands of Northwesterners have contributed to the Red Cross and other organizations and some have even traveled to the East Coast to lend a helping hand. But volunteer efforts won’t be enough to repair all the damage, and we ourselves might need huge reserves of aid if a big earthquake strikes our area again.

As the longest war in U.S. history continues, we could begin to face that reality by paying a war surtax.

It isn’t hard to grasp that our national debt is soaring while we are paying for troop salaries, training, food, equipment, vehicles, weapons, hospitals, etc. How did any of us think that we could conduct a huge foreign war and not pay extra for it?

We see the cost in human lives and family sacrifice everyday, but the majority of us do not actually pay for the war in a concrete, recognizable fashion.

Sandy Hook Elementary and the citizens of Newtown endured an unbelievable tragedy, and yet we do have to believe it. We have to believe it enough to get serious about funding mental health programs for identification and treatment.

There will be serious discussion about limiting the sale of semi-automatic weapons and conducting more extensive background checks. I would suggest an additional approach. Let’s require every owner of such a lethal weapon to show proof of purchase of a legally approved gun safe.

Let’s ask the prospective owner to show that proof, accompanied by a photo of the gun safe in his home and a description of the secured location of the key (or combination) as a condition of the weapon purchase.

This parallels some other requirements in our society: If stopped for a traffic violation, we must each present a valid driver’s license, proof of registration and proof of insurance. We can’t just point to the car and say, “Officer, here’s my car.”

Many dog-adoption agencies require that a prospective dog owner have a fenced yard prior to the adoption, and there might be other restrictions (i.e. no other dogs present in the home). I would argue that gun ownership is as weighty as dog ownership.

Ultimately, the secure gun safe could be one way of making sure that only the approved gun owner ever has access to the weapon(s). These safes might be very expensive, but that purchase price would be paid by the gun owner, would still allow gun ownership, and would likely be a boon to companies that manufacture such foolproof safes.

As for the drought affecting the depth of the Mississippi River, we might all have to pay more for the all the products that normally float down tow barges on this national waterway. There should be swirling water in the middle of the shipping lanes, not exposed sandbars.

It has been a year of challenges and setbacks, but we as a people are still here – 13 years after the new millennium began. It is time to pull our collective heads out of the sand and face reality.

We can’t simply mourn the good old days. We have to create different and better days.

Pamela Boyd, a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors, is an educator in Olympia and Tumwater. She can be reached at notesnotespb@gmail.com.

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