The Struggle for the Soul of America: Breaking America’s Gun Safety Gridlock

A new strategy may be emerging to break the logjam on legislation for gun safety. In The Atlantic magazine, senior editor Gal Beckerman proposes students, parents, and teachers take “the next three months to mobilize” a national strike when school starts again demanding gun safety laws. During the summer vacation, “they could create thousands of local committees supporting the strike and decide on what the national demand might be—say, an assault-weapon ban.”[1]

Beckerman points to the student movement after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Parkland students “built one of the most forceful movements around gun control to date…They also helped persuade Florida’s governor to sign a bill that raised the minimum age for purchasing a gun to 21 and extended the waiting period to three days.”[2]

Many unions were quick to denounce the shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers. American Federation of Teacher’s President Randi Weingarten, whose union has lost many members to gun violence, exclaimed, “Gun violence is cancer, and it’s one that none of us should tolerate for one single moment longer…We have made a choice to let this continue, and we can make a choice to finally do something—do anything—to put a stop to this madness.”[3]

Like most Americans, I am sickened by these school shootings as well as those in theaters, houses of worship and other public places. I agree with Weingarten that we can no longer tolerate this madness. But a national teachers’ strike is a big ask of public servants whose salaries do not often afford them the ability to build large bank accounts in reserve. Therefore, a fund to support striking teachers that many of us could support should be developed as soon as the organizing begins. (Note: This idea came from Margaret Lubalin, my editor/partner.)

With the help of the AFT and other unions, an extended national strike could be very effective. Hopefully, it would force Congress and state legislatures to act. With most Republicans opposing meaningful gun safety measures, it could also have a defining impact on some contested electoral races this November.

As momentum builds, the strike could be expanded to other issues as well. Whether it’s gun safety, abortion rights, voting rights or saving democracy itself, our country is at a dangerous stalemate. And let’s not forget the COVID pandemic and global warming.

Our nation is deeply divided on all these critical issues and at a loss as to what to do. Republicans blame the Democrats who control the government. They say elect them to run the country but have offered no sound solutions. Just recriminations and name-calling. They are obsessed with power and control. To them, their way is the only acceptable way. Democrats rightly respond that Republicans just obstruct any real effort to fix our problems.

The state of American politics is demoralizing and depressing. We once were better than this. A national strike for gun safety would be a big step forward toward bringing Americans of all persuasions together (over 90% want expanded background checks[4]) and making our country a healthier, safer place to live. The question is can we muster the strength and the will to overcome the gun lobby and its allies and find our way back to a more civil society before it’s too late.  Therein lies the struggle for the Soul of America.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/05/uvalde-school-shooting-gun-control-walkout/643120/

[2] Ibid.

[3] https://paydayreport.com/strikes-over-gun-control-erie-dc-teachers-went-on-strike-over-gun-control-weingarten-calls-for-action%EF%BF%BC/

[4] https://www.bradyunited.org/key-statistics?gclid=Cj0KCQjw4uaUBhC8ARIsANUuDjX4nlkbjeRY7qs1XkJePFdqdFrRdumlsGZbzF1N9xsOsBrY5-H8gWAaAmIjEALw_wcB

The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Future of Our Nation in Hands of a New Generation

This week my daughter graduates from UC Berkeley with a Master’s in Social Work. I couldn’t be prouder of her.

I want to say to her and to all those students graduating across the country: Congratulations! You’ve worked hard and achieved an important milestone. Your family and friends are very proud of you. I hope you are feeling immense gratification and delight in what you’ve accomplished. Pause for a moment to take it all in.

This is a time for reflection on how far you’ve come, as well as exploring what’s next. With the completion of your education, you are about to make your way in the world. This can be both difficult and exciting. Starting a career. Finding the right job. Deciding where to live. So much to consider.

Like everyone else, you will not be making these decisions in a vacuum. We live in extremely challenging times. In making your choices, you may have to take into account issues previous graduates have not had to consider: the state of the pandemic, major inflation and the rising cost of housing, climate change, the challenge to reproductive rights and more.

But there is one additional thing I urge you to think deeply about, and that is, the future of your country. Decades before you were born, a young, newly elected president, John F. Kennedy, in his 1961 inaugural address challenged all Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”[1]

Now more than ever, your country needs you. Your country has given you the opportunity to obtain a good education among many other advantages. And you alone will decide how to use them in your life.

At the same time, there is a very dark cloud hanging over our nation. It threatens all of us who believe in American democracy. That murky shadow is autocracy, and it imperils the freedoms and justice so many Americans have fought and died for.

Today we are seeing how destructive authoritarianism can be in Putin’s war on Ukraine. Here at home, we are experiencing this autocratic scourge from book-banning campaigns to laws restricting voting rights and eliminating reproductive rights. Most devastating was the January 6th attack on our Capitol in an effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the peaceful transfer of power. This coup was an affront to the most basic principles our nation founded on.

Though it was not of your making, you are now on the frontlines of an epic battle to save our democracy. Whatever you are planning to do as you begin your careers may very well be disrupted or even wiped out by an authoritarian, white supremacist government that could be in our country’s future.

That is why this November’s elections, and the 2024 election are so vital to the survival of our democracy. I urge you all to step up and get actively involved in them. Now is the time to take a stand. You, who are the future of our country, hold the nation’s fate in your hands.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

(P.S. Since I will be at my daughter’s graduation, I won’t be publishing a blog next week, but will be back the following week.)

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.archives.gov/milestone-documents/president-john-f-kennedys-inaugural-address

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Sound the Alarm!

I read the papers and watch the news on TV, but never thought it could happen to me. Then, suddenly, it does.

Friday evening close to midnight, police cars, lights flashing and sirens blasting, came barreling down my quiet country road and up my driveway, 75 miles northeast of Santa Fe. An officer banged on my door and told me I had to evacuate my home. It’s not safe. The raging wildfire that’s already consumed over 100,000 acres and 150-plus homes was just over the hill to the north. I had to leave now before it was too late.

Along with most of my neighbors, I quickly packed my car with family photos, clothes and whatever else I could squeeze in. I left the doors unlocked and my gate opened for the firefighters in case they were able to come and save my home from the uncontrolled firestorm. It was 2:30 in the morning by the time I arrived exhausted at my partner’s home in Santa Fe. 

Now I just sit and wait. Nervously checking online several times a day (See https://www.facebook.com/santafeNF/videos/675228177042752) to learn if the monstrous fire has destroyed my home. There’s nothing else I can do. A friend from across the way tried to get back up to her house yesterday, but the road was blocked off for our own safety. All we can do is pray that our homes are somehow spared.

I am so grateful for the one thousand firefighters giving their all to suppress the fire. I can’t imagine what they are going through. I read online that they don’t expect to have the fire fully contained until the end of July, three months from now. How many more acres and homes will be destroyed by then? It’s mind-boggling and depressing.

I am also very angry. I’m furious that myself and millions of my fellow Americans have been put in such a catastrophic state when it didn’t have to be this way. Climate experts have been warning us about the dangers of global warming since the late 1950s. In 1988 scientists and politicians from around the world gathered at the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere to address the threat to the Earth’s atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions. “By the 1990s, most scientists thought action was necessary, but opposition from fossil fuel companies and ideologists opposed to any government action were effective in obscuring the facts and blocking action,” according to Spencer Weart, retired director of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics.[1]

The Southwest is in a megadrought. A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that “the last 22 years now rank as the driest such period since at least 800 AD.”[2] Human-caused climate change is a major factor driving this megadrought. Yet, our government has failed to respond to this crisis with the urgency and magnitude it requires.[3]

Call the White House (202-456-1111) and your senators and representative (202-224-31-21). Demand that they take immediate action to pass the strongest possible climate change legislation. Our lives and the survival of the planet are at stake.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.


[1] https://www.livescience.com/humans-first-warned-about-climate-change

[2] https://news.climate.columbia.edu/2022/02/14/megadrought-in-southwest-is-now-the-worst-in-at-least-1200-years-study-confirms/

[3] https://www.abc10.com/article/news/nation-world/earth-day-biden-climate-policy/507-bf749989-3546-4735-b1fc-4353c01a7b14

The Struggle for the Soul of America: It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

(My remarks at a solstice gathering a few nights ago)

Two Hundred and Forty-five years ago this week just after the winter solstice on December 23, 1776, Thomas Paine wrote:

“These are the times that try men’s souls… Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

Paine was with George Washington and the Continental Army when they were defeated at White Plains and Forts Washington and Lee in October and November of that year.  Washington’s troops retreated across NJ and into PA. Many were without shoes and sufficient clothing to protect them from the freezing winter. The dejected Continental Army then huddled along the west bank of the Delaware River on the verge of defeat.

But Washington was not about to give up. On Christmas night, December 25, 1776, the General led his ragged army across the icy Delaware River and embarked on a ten-mile march to Trenton, NJ, where they surprised and overcame 1500 enemy troops. A week later, they again prevailed at Princeton. It was a pivotal point that led to the defeat of the British and the birth of our nation.

87 years later, on Nov. 19, 1863, after one of bloodiest battles in our history, in the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln declared at Gettysburg: “that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”

Now, recalling how our foremothers and forefathers persevered and overcame great diversity so that American democracy might be born and grow, once again our collective survival as a free people is being tested.

We are again in times that try men’s and women’s souls. We are being challenged to the utmost by the COVID pandemic, right-wing voter suppression, a fascist ex-president’s attempt to overthrow our government and global climate change.

So, as the winter solstice ushers in the radiance of the approaching new year, we have the opportunity, perhaps you might say, the duty, to open our hearts and spread the light of peace and love to all our relations, and to contribute whatever we are able, to the work of overcoming this pandemic, protecting our planet Earth and preserving our democratic way of life.

May this begin tonight with each of us.

Bruce Berlin