In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson ran a political ad that captivated the nation. Sometimes referred to as “Daisy Girl,” it featured a young girl plucking petals from a daisy while engulfed by a nuclear blast. The voice of Johnson then says ominously: These are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.
The ad only ran once, and Johnson’s opponent was never mentioned by name, but everyone knew it was Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, known for his comments about atomic warfare. Goldwater lost.
A powerful image. The consequence of nuclear weapons. The inevitability of death and destruction.
There was a choice then, and there is a choice now.
Today, our nation is captivated by other weapons of war and mass destruction. There are 392 million guns owned in the United States—more than the population of this country—and over 20 million of those are AR-15 assault rifles (according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation).
The irony is we no longer need an ad agency to dream up powerful imagery and haunting messages. We just check our smartphones for the latest scenes of horror from churches, shopping centers, elementary schools.
Like Johnson, we don’t have to mention by name the politicians whose campaign coffers are routinely filled by the National Rifle Association. Once again, it is a failure to make a world in which all of God’s children can live. How long will this go on?
We are complicit when we are not proactive in supporting common sense gun control. Even amongst gun owners, there are those who are saying “enough.”
Everyday Americans have the courage and wisdom our politicians lack. While it’s true our views on guns in America are complex, there are many ideas we agree on.
According to Pew Research Center, over 60 percent of Americans favor stronger restrictions on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Recently, President Biden signed a bipartisan gun safety bill into law. Locally, Lift Every Voice Oregon (LEVO) successfully gathered petition signatures for a gun safety measure (IP 17) to be on the November ballot. LEVO, a faith-based organization, teamed with Ceasefire Oregon to help us put it to a vote. I encourage everyone to vote in support of this ballot measure. The whole country will be watching. What will we do?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Will we have the courage to say “yes” to the ethical understandings, religious values, and legal protections that ensure the safety, security, and well-being of all our communities?
For truly, these are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.▪
The Rev. Andrea Cano is interim president of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. Ordained with the United Church of Christ, she is also a board-certified clinical chaplain.