Chuck Haga: Thanksgiving's over. Now let’s get to work on changing the world

Send your thoughts and prayers if you believe that helps, but for humanity’s sake can’t we do something more, something concrete?

Chuck Haga is a columnist for the Grand Forks Herald. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)
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You and I have much to be thankful for, and most of us celebrated that on Thursday. If we were lucky, we gave thanks in the company of people we love.

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There is an effort underway in the North Dakota Legislature to ban instruction of “divisive topics.”

Now let’s get to work on changing the world so we can really be thankful next year, or our grandchildren will thank us 10, 20 or 50 years from now.

Let us have the courage and will to face two existential crises: guns and climate change. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, our unwillingness or inability to respond meaningfully to gun violence – our national disgrace – bloodied the map again.

Two weeks ago, three people were shot and killed at the University of Virginia.

Then came the gun deaths of five people at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado.


And on Tuesday, six people were killed by a gun-wielding man at a Walmart in Virginia.

Maybe stricter gun control wouldn’t have saved all or even any of those people. Certainly, other factors are at work.

But we have a gun problem. We have a gun culture that enables and sustains the killing. Nearly 50 people die in gun shootings in this country every day, according to news reports this week. These latest slaughters brought the number of mass shootings — defined as one in which at least four people are shot — to more than 600 this year. We’re on a pace to shatter the record, which was set last year.

No other country comes close to our shame.

Send your thoughts and prayers if you believe that helps, but for humanity’s sake can’t we do something more, something concrete? Must we accept that no place is safe in this country – not a church or a synagogue, not a school or an office, a movie theater or a grocery store, not a Walmart?

“What can I do?” you ask plaintively. “What can one person do?”

We’ve been asking since Sandy Hook Elementary, and before.

We can speak up. We can refuse to accept that gun violence is inevitable, that it is a regrettable but acceptable consequence of securing every 18-year-old’s right to bear an assault rifle.


We can challenge people in a position to do something meaningful. Write or call a member of Congress and say you respect the Second Amendment but it shouldn’t block a ban on weapons made for war, or red flag laws, or expanded background checks.

Earlier this year, Congress passed and President Biden signed a measure sending $750 million to states for crisis intervention efforts, which could be used to establish and operate red flag programs. That new law, passed with bipartisan support, “represents the most significant federal legislation to address gun violence” since the 1994 assault weapons ban, CNN reported. (The assault weapons ban, opposed by the National Rifle Association, failed to win renewal after 10 years and has been beaten back ever since.)

We should bring back the assault weapons ban.

And we have to face up to the climate challenge.

Earlier this month, the Rochester (Minn.) Post Bulletin reported on a talk by Bill Nye – “Bill Nye the Science Guy” – at Winona (Minn.) State University.

"People say to me all the time, 'Bill Nye the Science Guy, what can I do about climate change?'" Nye said. "Here's what you can do about climate change. … You can always combine your errands, don't use plastic bags, that's all good. Here's what I want you to do about climate change: vote.

"We could run the whole world renewably right now if we just had political will," he said. "Yes, it's important to combine errands, ride a bicycle instead of driving. ... But we need big ideas, people. We need giant ideas."

Two weeks ago, negotiators from nearly 200 countries agreed to establish a fund that would “help poor, vulnerable countries cope with climate disasters made worse by the pollution spewed by wealthy nations that is dangerously heating the climate,” the New York Times reported.


It’s a tremendously contentious issue, complicated by China’s being one of the world’s biggest polluters AND one of the nations seeking international compensation.

Here in the United States, the issue gets lost in politics. In oil and coal rich North Dakota, talk of a renewable future is met with suspicion.

But as Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post on Nov. 13, we are seeing the consequences of climate change and learning of a potentially disastrous future.

Why should we care about massive flooding this year in Pakistan, or killer drought in Africa?

“Droughts and floods will only increase the number of African migrants who set out on flimsy craft to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe,” Robinson wrote.

“Climate change will only swell the number of Central American migrants fleeing gang violence in overcrowded cities who find ways across the southern border into the United States.”

Yes, that’s another challenge: securing our Southern border. That needs attention, too. But can we stop with the fear-mongering and inhumane stunts and try to find reasonable, creative ways to deal with it?

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