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Tom Fiebiger, Fargo, Published April 27 2013

Letter: ND senators’ vote was shortsighted

Desmond Tutu speaks of one of the sayings in South Africa as being “Ubuntu.” According to Tutu, this is the essence of being human. It speaks to the fact of our interconnectedness and that you can’t be human all by yourself when we have this quality – and when you do, you are known for your generosity. Tutu wisely notes that we think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, but that we are connected and what you do affects the whole world.

This recent vote by U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., against the Manchin-Toomey gun amendment seemed to me to be a missed opportunity at “Ubuntu.” It was a missed opportunity to take a small but significant step to recognize that we are all connected – from Newtown, Conn., to Boston, to Mandan and beyond. It was a chance for our senators to embrace our connectedness and realize that what they do, or don’t do, does affect the whole world. It’s bigger than the calculation of the number of calls and emails from North Dakota telling them what is the “right” way to vote.

Our senators are both relatively new at their jobs. They have many gifts and skills that will serve the people of the great state of North Dakota and this country well. They have an opportunity to grow, learn and help create a new order in a changing world. This is unchartered territory. As a parent and grandparent concerned about the world we are both creating and leaving for those who follow us, I am hoping our senators are not going to be held captives to the smallness of the day and that they will embrace Ubuntu.

Having not liked or supported the Manchin-Toomey amendment and stating this is really more about mental health issues and not guns, I would call upon both Heitkamp and Hoeven to answer the question: “Now what?” As the gun violence continues in our country, what steps will you take as our elected leaders to try to craft a creative alternative to Manchin-Toomey, to what is one of the most troubling problems of our time? We sent you to the U.S. Senate to take on the big issues of our time – because we believed that you are problem solvers. Let us know how we can help.