Editor: To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing once they’ve tried everything else.” This quip can be said to be too clever by half and surely it was meant to insult us in an amusing way, but I’ll take it for the begrudging compliment that it is.

As a nation, we have values — ideals that are aspirational if not realizable; for example, government of, for and by the people, liberty and justice for all, E Pluribus Unum. We try to uphold them against all the forces, both innocent and insidious, working against them.

In recent weeks, we have seen the worst and the best of who we are. A 21-year-old nihilistic racist mowed down nine innocent African-Americans praying in their sanctuary — an apparent safe haven. It was the forgiving families of the victims who measured up to our highest standards that inspired others to do the right thing. Indeed, Gov. Nikki Haley demanded that the Confederate flag be removed from official places in South Carolina.

I can’t give these noble souls credit for the Supreme Court’s decisions to let the Affordable Health Care Act continue to do its work and the court’s upholding the legitimacy of gay marriage. But related or not — this string of “right things” gave hope and inspiration to many of us. And it certainly emboldened our president to promote initiatives that are meant to make life easier and better for those who are underserved.

We need to go much further — to work against the growing gap between rich and poor and to ensure that deadly weapons do not find their way into the hands of deranged, murderous haters. These should not be regarded as political matters. Is there a conservative reason to be against them?

The Times-Tribune, Letters to the Editor, July 12, 2015

String of hope