The Common Good

Lay Down Your Arms and Take a Stand

Edmund Burke once said, "all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." So what is at the heart of the endless stream of violence in our country — is it guns or is it something a lot harder to eradicate — passivity?

DeiMosz /
DeiMosz /

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The overwhelming response would likely be "it's the guns, stupid." But in this fight, the individual with the loaded AK-47 rifle may be only slightly less dangerous than the passive citizen, the average person who may think "something should be done about guns,” but fails to stand up and make their voice heard.

Occupy Democracy – Pasadena (ODP), in the spirit of our mission to encourage everyday people to start participating in the civic dialogue that shapes their lives, organized a vigil/rally against the proliferation of guns and our country's gun culture with the support of Greater Pasadena Jews for Justice (a justice group within Pasadena Jewish Temple), Pasadena Mennonite Church, and All Saints Episcopal Church. The evening event, held a week after the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and three days before Christmas, encouraged residents of Pasadena to make tangible their increasing distress and frustration created by our country's apathy towards developing and enforcing effective gun control laws.

ODP does not normally organize actions in response to what is in the news. Our group, whose mission statement in part is to "take democracy to the streets" (congressional offices, city council meetings, public meeting halls, talks over-the-fence, and certainly in the streets themselves) in support of social justice and peace, has been diligently working on a constitutional amendment to overturn the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision responsible for releasing unbridled amounts of money into the political process. But part of our apparatus is a nimbleness to respond to those glaring social crises about which many citizens have turned an exhausted eye and broken will.

All Saints Civic Engagement, ODP and other faith groups are working together on justice issues in greater Pasadena to create a healthier, more vibrant place to live. In this instance, it is vitally important that both faith and secular groups awaken our country's collective sleeping conscience, voice what we know to be an inherently evil element in our culture, and face the ongoing tragedy of a fearful nation awash in guns. 

The Burke quote should also make us reflect upon what it means to be a good man, a good woman, and a good citizen and steward — not only of our democracy, but of our earth home. We are witness now to what not standing up to protect the least of these exacts upon our society in staggering poverty statistics and increased social inequity. We feel, hear, and see the ill-effects of our failure to stem environmental catastrophes when we were given ample warning.

What we fail to see when we fall prey to passive lethargy and indifference to injustice is that justice in and of itself only exists because people chose to make it exist. Justice doesn't just happen; those good men and women of history who chose to act in the face of injustice and evil created justice. And so, too, we must stand and claim what truly makes us powerful — our voices, our bodies, and our right to create justice. In the stand against guns and the powers behind their proliferation, there is no time to waste.

Maddie Gavel-Briggs and her husband Patrick Briggs are members of the National Mobilizing Circle, and are residents of Pasadena, Calif.

Photo: DeiMosz /

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