I did not know Professor Schmidt, who was murdered in his office today at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. I do not know the details of the case. I do not know if the shooter has been apprehended at this time.
Professor Schmidt's life was no more valuable than the other 30,000+ who will perish this year from gun-violence. Nor was his life less valuable. But each of these deaths is a diminishment, a degradation, a blemish.
Among developed nations, America claims 30% of the population and 90% of the gun fatalities. I know that suicide accounts for 60% of that number, which only deepens the tragedy and extends the front lines of the engagement that we all face.
This is now part of our legacy to the modern world. It is not the only legacy. But this is the one that casts a long shadow because it involves survivors and mourners, the larger extended community that is left, often alone, to deal with this national problem and the personal loss the problem entails. It is a legacy that multiplies long after we have turned our attention to the most recent murder, and so the effect grows and grows and grows in the wake of our legislators' apathy, and finally the mood of the nation—if there is such a thing—is affected, and that mood seem perceptibly to grow darker and darker.
At this point, I am supposed to point to all of the good work being done by our heroic gun-violence prevention activists, and so it is right and proper to consider this my salute, because they are doing heroic work, and they are having a real and growing effect. But just now my heart is not in the optimistic mood.
So maybe there is a national mood, after all, and maybe my heart is registering that mood, and because my own heart is weary of this mood, maybe our hearts will carry us to the tipping point, where the majority who support reasonable gun legislation and background checks will regain their voice and maybe our legislators will begin to listen to those voices.
That is the best that I can say today, and it is the best that I can hope for tomorrow.