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Don Rogers: Small-town answers

Out of racial ugliness in downtown Grass Valley came the most beautiful thing last Friday: maybe a thousand people gathering in Mill Street to declare this is not us. We are something better.

It couldn’t repair what a few thoughtless boys shouted at a neighbor about their age, epithets with no place in this century. Still, it was something.

The image that lingers is of Grass Valley Mayor Howard Levine, mourning wife Peggy, as everyone who ever met her is too. Well, there he is, raising a fist amid the throng and leading. A shepherd to our better natures, shouting “Love!” over and over again, at the top of his lungs.



I see Howard as a beardless Gandalf in the depths beneath a mountain, facing down a giant fiery monster, stamping his staff and declaring, “Go back to the shadow. … You. Shall. Not. Pass!”

Confusion may reign in how to deal with this, but there’s no mistaking the connection between number of firearms and number of shootings.

And then Las Vegas.




This has sapped us like no set of hurricanes could. The storms devastate. But they’re not pure evil.

At The Union office, as I imagine across the country, smiles this week were weary, minds occupied, bright sides a little harder to find.

The toll since 1966 in shootings of four or more people at a time comes to 948, including the 59 at the country music concert Sunday.

The rate compared to our swelling population may remain about the same as ever, going back as far as we care to count. But with 49 deceased, the previous record, at the Florida nightclub in 2016; San Bernardino (14) in 2015; U.C. Santa Barbara’s college town Isla Vista (six) in 2014; Washington, D.C., (12) in 2013; and Sandy Hook Elementary School (27) AND the Colorado movie theater (12) in 2012. …

Well, you get the picture.

Evil. Pure evil. How else to look at these?

A consequence of our gun-crazy culture? Maybe. The latest shooter stockpiled 47 firearms, apparently all purchased legally and some modified into automatic weapons, legally.

But consider that most of these shootings happen in liberal East and West Coast metropolises with comparatively few across the South outside Texas and Florida, and none at all in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota or New Mexico, hardly strangers to guns.

America has far more private firearms than anywhere else in the world, about half the total. We own more guns per 100 people (89) than the next-closest country, Yemen, at 55.

The United States dominates in mass shootings, our 5 percent of the world in population committing 31 percent of these atrocities between 1966 and 2012.

Confusion may reign in how to deal with this, but there’s no mistaking the connection between number of firearms and number of shootings.

We have a real problem with the availability of means to carry out this brand of pure evil. It’s simple math.

Blame the NRA, Congress, the Constitution, mental health, upbringing, personal responsibility, criminals, general culture if you like. Probably all of it.

But this evil, pure evil, will survive Sunday’s massacre and emotional vows to hold the line at Las Vegas. And the next mass shooting and the next after that while we voice our tired arguments again and again.

It’s a depressing thought, I know. Certainly erodes my natural optimism, and from what I’m seeing this week, yours too.

America is unlikely to solve gun violence anytime soon, though. There’s a reason this is a wedge issue and so much interest in making sure it stays unsolved. I can’t fix it. You can’t, either. Not before the next massacre.

So I find myself wondering what Howard would do. Actually, I’m pretty sure I know what Howard will do, on Saturday at least. He’ll likely be cleaning up a roadside or park somewhere in Grass Valley, or delivering firewood to seniors, or helping revitalize a school, or restoring a trail as part of this year’s RAKE.

RAKE — for Random Acts of Kindness Event — is another of those small-town, big-hearted community efforts as cool as the Love Walk on Mill Street.

Sure, it’s small stuff compared to the hell meted out from the 32nd floor of a high-rise casino and hotel.

But participating in our humble ways, we take back a bit of this world for good, and it all adds up, perhaps, to love in the end conquering evil.

At least in our own hearts and home.

Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@theunion.com or 477-4299.


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