In his moving and heartfelt statement on the horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn., President Obama said, “As a country, we have been through this too many times. ... And we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
There's just one problem: Our politics is a synonym for “democracy.” Through politics, people with strong feelings and interests peaceably hash out disagreements. When politicians say they want to do something regardless of the politics, they generally mean they want to do something regardless of the normal rules or what their opponents have to say or, often, the facts. This, after all, is the point of “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
I've lost my share of loved ones in recent years, though (thank God) nothing that can match what must be the soul-eating despair of the murder of a son or daughter. Still, one piece of sound advice often heard in such situations and predictably ignored in the political realm is “don't make any big decisions” in a tragedy's immediate aftermath.
Eleven years after 9/11 — another traumatic mass slaughter — how many people find the quick-started airport security system reassuring and necessary? Imposing the equivalent of TSA screening at every elementary school strikes me as an idea proposed out of panic and despair.
But, again, that's sort of the point for some. For 20 years, at least, we've been hearing about the dangers of “anger” in politics. Now, insists E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, anger isn't the disease, it's the cure: “We should mourn, but we should be angry ... . The horror in Newtown ... should shake us out of the cowardice, the fear, the evasion and the opportunism that prevents our political system from acting to curb gun violence.”
Except, our political system has acted to curb gun violence. Violent crime, gun violence and school violence have all dropped dramatically over the last 20 years, even as guns' number (and lethality) has risen dramatically.
Dionne and countless others want to use fear, evasion and opportunism in the wake of this tragedy to win an argument they couldn't win when passion was in check.
A breakdown in our culture generally, and our mental health system in particular, seems to be making this kind of nihilistic mayhem possible and attractive to sick young men — a point the media should keep in mind as they provide the kind of saturation coverage such men find seductive.
I think we need better mental health screening and treatment for potential murderers. I don't know how to implement such ideas in ways that would actually work. Indeed, all I'm sure of is that we should be very careful about making big decisions when we are so angry and mourning so deeply.
Jonah Goldberg is the author of the new book “The Tyranny of Clichés.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Wolf’s taxes
- He’ll tax, we’ll pay
- Confidence in our courts
- Not clean enough
- Renaming in order?
- Tarentum demolition
- ‘PC’ Ebola approach deadly
- Behind tax inversions
- GCC 19, sportsmanship 0
- No place for transphobia
- Coal’s biggest threat