Letters to the Editor

Letters: Universal background checks are needed now; Lessons in empathy

Universal background checks are needed now

OK, it didn’t happen again. The gun didn’t pull the trigger. But seven people are dead in Odessa, and 20 some others, including a child, wounded because the guy who did pull the trigger didn’t have to pass a background check. He didn’t have to reveal that he had already failed one check on his criminal history because he bought his gun from a private seller who didn’t have to do background checks because Texas law didn’t cover that. Likewise, Congress didn’t do a simple thing that most of the rest of the country has supported for years. The Senate most recently didn’t even debate the issue after two other mass shootings in one weekend. Senator Roadblock, who has never received one vote outside of Kentucky, but who dictates to the rest of the nation what their senators will not consider, such as the gun legislation recently passed by the House, didn’t interrupt the summer recess even though we’ve had nearly a monthly mass shooting since July. And, our game show host-in-chief didn’t “strongly” call on Congress for tougher legislation because he had to explain for six days why he wasn’t wrong about the hurricane that didn’t hit Alabama. Besides, he suddenly thinks we already have a “very strong” system after Wayne called to remind him that background checks are an NRA no-no. And, so, universal background checks didn’t happen again. Congress is back in session this week. Don’t let this not happen, again.

Jack Sulzer, Lemont

Lessons in empathy

Seven years ago, my family and I learned a life lesson in empathy. We realized that, just as no one around us could tell our idyllic family walk was actually to the hospital to learn whether I could survive my brain cancer, we too had no idea what invisible struggles anyone else faced. Ever since, we’ve strived to have empathy, knowing that we see only a small part of others’ lives.

Sometimes this comes through judgment. Dichotomizing into good and bad is easy, if not realistic. For example, an aggressive driver is easy to castigate, but not if the passenger had a heart attack. Likewise, there’s great difference between stealing for greed versus for starving children.

More often, signs of trouble are little to none. I have friends, and am sure we all do, who have gone years or decades quietly suffering from scars of abuse. These hidden burdens can range from devastating trauma to a rough day. Caring enough to check in and try to understand and help one another can make all the difference.

If we try to empathize with one another, we will be able to help and build connections that can change lives. To spread this message, I’m shaving my head to donate my hair and reveal my unseen scars. I’m just a reminder, though — this isn’t about me; it’s about everyone we see each day whose life has so much more than we see.

If you would like, you can read more here: https://sites.psu.edu/brettgreen/empathy/.

Brett Green, State College