This is one way the scene in Governor Chris Christie’s office on Wednesday, July 2nd could have played out:
The Participants: Mark Barden and Nicole Hockley, parents of first graders killed during the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, members of the Barden family and, a number of residents of Newtown and Sandy Hook, CT.
Background: The group traveled from Newtown to New Jersey to deliver over 55,000 letters of support from New Jersey and around the country asking Governor Christie to sign into law, A2006, a bill that would allow a firearm ammunition magazine to hold no more than 10 bullets (rounds.) A2006 passed full floor votes in both houses of the New Jersey State Legislature this spring.
Governor Christie: “Hello. Welcome. It’s sweltering outside. Can we offer you some water?”
The Visitors: “Thank you governor. We realize you are extremely busy and simply wish a minute to explain why we support A2006 and also to pass along the 55,000 signatures we gathered in favor of its passage.”
Governor Christie: “Thank you. While I essentially see the issue from a different perspective, I do appreciate your taking the time to come and share your feelings.”
The Visitors: “We appreciate your willingness to engage. Thank you for your time.”
The participants and background are real. The rest is fiction.
Governor Christie, evidently in the building, was “unable” to meet with his guests.
“Unable” to say hello… shake a hand…make eye contact…nod…wave…
It’s worth mentioning that Mr. Barden over the past few months had tried repeatedly to schedule a meeting with Christie; offering to chat any time of day or night…anywhere…on the spur of the moment if need be, for as much or as little time as the Governor could spare.
Governor Christie was “too busy.”
“Too busy” to meet with a parent of a victim from a mass shooting that rocked people around the world to their core.
This isn’t about the vote.
Instead, Governor Christie charged Mr. Barden and Ms. Hockley with “grandstanding.”
Few can argue that a society in which 20 first graders can be murdered in the haven of their classroom and in which there exists an epidemic of gun violence is a society in need of fundamental change.
A grieving parent makes a respectful effort to initiate such change, or at least to establish a healthy dialogue, and they are reproached by a prominent politician for their “grandstanding.”
“Slapped in the face today by Gov. Christie of NJ. Cowardly & offensive. Not what I look for in a leader, much less a Presidential candidate.”
Senator Mark Begich of Alaska as well as Senator Kelly Ayotte do not see eye to eye with Ms. Hockley on subject of guns. Nonetheless, both senators have met with Ms, Hockley as have many politicians both at a federal and state level, Democrat and Republican, who do not agree. Some on more than one occasion.
The leader and several members of the Republican caucus in New Jersey also met with Mr. Barden and Ms. Hockley. Despite differences of opinion, these legislators engaged in constructive conversation while applauding Ms. Hockley and Mr. Barden’s rationality and logic.
This is called empathy; or at the very least, an attempt at empathy.
For someone who wishes to focus less on gun reform and more on mental health, it appears, Governor Christie has not done his homework. Current research on trauma, stress, depression and the like highlight empathy as a critical component for the evolution of a healthy individual not to mention society
And it starts at home; or, in the office.
No doubt numerous gay rights advocates have also been accused of “grandstanding.”
Why, though, have so many citizens, including politicians, reversed their stance on the issue?
Because it’s pretty tough to not empathize with someone once you know them. Thanks to the number of gay folks who have found their voices, more and more people have discovered that not only do they know someone who is gay but that they also like and very often love that person as well.
Not that taking a moment to connect with Mr. Barden and Ms. Hockley would necessarily change Christie’s decision. He has the right to govern as he sees fit.
A little empathy and compassion, though. What harm is there in bringing that to the table?
One does have to wonder of what Governor Christie is so afraid.
“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away.”
In response to the Sandy Hook Parents’ efforts, Governor Christie remarked, “I will not support such a trivial approach to the sanctity of life.”
It is astounding that we have at the helm of an entire state, a man who would bestow this statement upon people who despite undergoing insane grief, have found the wherewithal to harness a passion that is anything but trivial.
We have arrived at a point in time when this politician, this human being, may be a contender for president of the United States.
Wonder if the Governor is familiar with the following quote from one of our finer past presidents:
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
Politics – The Huffington Post
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