As my family and I approached the Utah Capitol, marching to end gun violence with over 7,000 student-led protesters, a group of counterprotesters, some with rifles slung over shoulders, came into view. One camouflage-clad man looked at me. Despite my anger and my fear of confrontation, especially with an armed stranger, I approached him, spontaneously extending my hand. We were both, I believe, surprised by the gesture. After a hesitant blink, he reached over the police tape. “Hello, brother,” I said as we shook hands, a soft warmth temporarily replacing the anger.

Both the 2018 March for Our Lives protest and the massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School that preceded it occurred during the liturgical season of Lent, a contemplative time when believers fast, pray, repent and make personal sacrifices to remember the love of God as manifested in Jesus.  

Although I no longer sit in a pew on Sundays and have never observed Lent, the religion of my youth taught me about personal sacrifice. 

This concept of making sacrifices to benefit all has dwindled in our political culture, where rugged individualism goes to extremes. It now seems that an individual’s freedom to own a semi-automatic killing technology is more valued than the rights of children to attend school safely; of religious people to worship without watching the door; of everyone to buy milk, go to work, and to live and flourish in peace.

Brother, I don’t know your name, but can you step back? Do you see our shattered, blood-spattered society? I sense you recognize and feel a portion of the unbearable suffering of innumerable Americans. You have undoubtedly also sacrificed for your family and community. But can you please let go, loosen the grip on your ideology? I ask you and yours, and the politicians who represent us both, to consider our traumatized country and to make the better sacrifice.

Haley Ashton

South Jordan