Who are all these people”

It was chance, and a free day, that sent me cycling around the National Mall on Friday.

Because I never miss the chance to cycle in a distant city.

Off in the distance I spotted a new exhibit going up in the shadow of the Smithsonian. And curiosity drew me near.

A crew of volunteers was busy hauling great plastic bags full of what looked like colorful cubes into a temporary shelter already near full to bursting with cubes.

And although the exhibit wouldn’t open until Saturday, it had already drawn people who were just as curious as I was.

Closer inspection revealed faces. Smiling. Laughing. Looking back at the lookers.

Face after face after face. A volunteer explained it to me.

They were the victims of gun violence in America. They were 200,000 strong.

Two hundred thousand of them! And not in the last decade. Not in the last five years.

IN JUST THE LAST THREE YEARS! JUST SINCE THE SHOOTINGS IN LAS VEGAS!

The exhibit would run only Saturday and Sunday. And I noticed that the tents were set up in the very shadow of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Would anybody over there notice? Or even care? They who had so often sent their “thoughts and prayers” while steadfastly refusing to do anything about the Great American Gun Pandemic.

I was not optimistic. Over thirty yeas as editorial writer of The Gainesville Sun I had written scores of editorials and columns about gun violence in America. Today, cynically or perhaps sadly, I consider it one of the great lost causes in a career filled with lost causes.

But these people. These volunteers and organizers and contributors, still believe. They believe that perhaps, just perhaps, art may succeed in drawing attention where reason, demands and pleas have failed.

Bless them for that. Find out more about who these people are. And don’t give up.

This is still our country. And we still have a voice. And a choice.

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