My heart goes out to all those whose loved ones were victims of the senseless tragedy in Tucson Arizona and prayers of recovery for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Having said that, we need to stay focused on the why. This tragedy was not tied to age, sex, race, political affiliation or personal views, this was a violent act by a mentally deranged individual. We need to keep that in focus in the days to come. No action is warranted, no reaction will change things.
My fear is the usual knee-jerk reaction. Everyone with an agenda is going to try to tie this unthinkable act to their cause. We live in a world where we attempt to legislate or litigate ourselves out of every unpleasant thing that happens to us. We seem to believe that with more and better laws we can eliminate violence, destruction and tragedy. Our mentality over the past decades has been more laws, tougher courts, more lawsuits, more prisons – never mind that we win the title of having the highest percentage of our citizens in prison that any other industrialized country.
So, here we are – only days after the Arizona tragedy and the push is already on for more and tougher laws – ones that ultimately chip away at our individual freedoms as well as limiting our exposure and interactions to the world around us. We have become a country that is obsessed with controlling or finding someone to blame for everything from natural disasters to explosions of violence, to just plain accidents. Somehow we got to a place where even unavoidable accidents can be punished by fines and jail time.
The mass murders at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ town hall meeting were not predictable or avoidable. To live, to go places and do things – to be a free human being – is a risk. We are at risk when we sleep in our house at night, when we drive a car anywhere, when we simply walk down a street or attend a gathering. Name me one sport or activity that doesn’t somehow carry the risk of death; some more that others, but still the risk.
The perpetrator in the Tucson Arizona tragedy was mentally ill; an undiagnosed psychopath. There are an hundreds of thousands1 of individuals either there or on the brink. Knowing, much less predicting when one of those will snap is a shell game. To think that we can legislate our way out of the potential that creates is in itself insane.
Within a few days of the tragedy we have the anti-gun lobbyists coming out in force, legislators proposing tighter security at political events, restrictions on how our representatives can meet with their constituents, Laws for constituents to show up at meetings2, a new law that would put legislators in glass (Plexiglas) rooms3 and on and on. The insanity isn’t just the deranged shooters, but lobbyists and politicals alike.
Along with all of the insane proposals of legislation to “fix” our society, we are now getting calls to “tone down the rhetoric”, or as Arianna Huffington says, “ratcheting down the tone of our political discourse”. Maybe we should all go back and read our history – this bad-mouthing of everyone from candidates to elected official (and the parties themselves) has been Ratcheted up since the constitution was signed, and in the beginning of the century it was a lot louder and more offensive – just the nature of the beast. I don’t believe a politically correct and always polite system will survive if it is ever perfected. I personally believe that “politically correct” is a game with unproductive consequences designed by those who would control us and our thinking.
In the history of the world, violence has reared it’s ugly head long before guns were invented, and will be here long after all of the laws fail to protect us. We just live in that kind of reality.
I am reminded of one of Paul Harvey’s (news commentator) take on gun control several decades ago. His thought was that according to national statistics, more people are killed by knives than by guns. He proposed that knives be licensed, and that since the most common knife used in these deaths was the kitchen knife, the housewives would need to be licensed to keep butcher knives in their kitchens. The absurdity of this proposal only serves to highlight my point – we can not legislate ourselves into a perfect world. Accidents are going to happen, Mother Nature is going to rule, and sick people are going to find ways to hurt other people. If not with guns, then with knives, vehicles, explosives or… use their imagination. Some things just aren’t avoidable, as much as we can wish they were. I just wonder if this country would exist if our pioneers had thought like that.
We live in a dangerous world, it always has been, it always will be. I don’t suggest that we quit searching for ways to make it less dangerous, only that we stop the knee jerk reaction every time something bad happens. Last, just a reminder that 9-11 wasn’t a gun – it was an airplane.
I welcome your comments