CT shooting: maybe “you’re on your own” isn’t such good public policy, after all.

We discuss gun control at length. Should we limit cartridge sizes? Firing rates? These are good questions. It would be hard to come up with a rational reason to allow military-style weapons of such destructive power to be sold to civilians.

We discuss “mental illness,” a laughably simple term that seems to hold “the crazy people” at arm’s length while feigning interest in their well-being. We’re not crazy, after all. Just some people who have “issues.” As dismissive as that discussion may seem, yes, it does also seem like we ought to take mental health more seriously as a society.

And yes, some even discuss Aspergers and the autism spectrum, because of course that is one more thing about Adam Lanza that makes him different from a majority of Americans. There is nothing about Aspergers that pre-supposes violent behavior at all. But we’re still talking about it, because most of us just don’t know enough about it.

Yet these discussions, some lazier than others, all come back to the same place. Sooner or later, people come to the conclusion that if we don’t act on everything, we really end up doing nothing of substance.

I would submit that our national conversation is turning towards a larger realization and we’re waiting for mainstream media to find the language to describe it. As a community, we’re starting to come to the conclusion that it isn’t one policy that is the problem. Rather it is the general sense that “you’re on your own” that is the problem.

You don’t need gun control, because you can handle all that yourself. You don’t need “socialized health care,” because your health is between you and your doctor (and your insurance company, and its actuaries). We need less government. We can handle it on our own.

More importantly, maybe part of the problem is the fact that we really are starting to think we’re on our own. That our neighbors don’t care about our health, our safety. That 47% of us are beneath the contempt of the rich and powerful. That the government is really the control-mongering “other” that we’re told it is, in television, movies and Republican mailers. That if you’re without resources, you’re without hope.

After decades of drowning governments in bathtubs and starving beasts, it turns out that yes, gun control might actually make us safer. Yes, a rational public policy that provides equal access to health care – including mental health care – might have some benefit even for the wealthy. Yes, we need each other and yes, our representative democracy is the place to come together.

There are lots of more immediate solutions on the table at the moment and we ignore those at our peril in this moment. But maybe long-term, we ought to consider civics lessons in school with more seriousness. Classes that teach our kids how our government actually works so that, rather than sneering at its failures, they’re ready to actively participate in its successes.

I suggest this not because I believe that familiarity with how bills become law will stop one madman; I don’t suggest it because I think electing a Representative will make one loner feel enfranchised enough to leave the gun at home. I suggest it because I dearly hope that the actions of the next madman might be mitigated by the actions of an involved community and an informed electorate.


Words Are Not Deeds

Paul Krugman picks up on something that The Daily Show also echoed: that the words Barack Obama spoke in his inauguration speech were similar to those of George Bush. Krugman also goes slightly farther to include Bill Clinton in that mix.

Yes it is true. All three men have said things which look similar when you put them on paper. But words are not deeds, as every critic of Obama’s throughout the campaign has noted. Does anyone out there ever recall a moment when George Bush actually sounded like he meant anything he said? With the possible exception of the days immediately following 9/11, I don’t think I can come up with any.

That’s because at the very same time he spoke about responsibility, he was doing things in direct contradiction to his words. Its because when he says we don’t torture, it’s at the same time as we know we are torturing. It’s because he gave tax cuts to the rich while claiming it was about the Middle Class. And in the case of things like the Clean Air Act, the Patriot Act and many others, the previous Republican administration and Congress actually went out of it’s way to very specifically mislead the public in order to advance it’s agenda. Therefore, the words of George Bush are at no time in his administration worth considering as either fact or a genuine reflection of his intent.

Barack Obama, by contrast, owes his presidency in a very real sense to the personal responsibility of his supporters. It was the sense of duty that pushed people to knock on doors or make phone calls or create art or write songs that pushed him over the top. His grassroots campaigning has always been about inspiring people to action. . . and it worked. There is absolutely no reason to think that his call to action now won’t be followed up by very specific measures just like it was in the campaign.

That’s the difference.


Clearly, She Doesn’t Get the First Amendment

And lord knows, it’s complicated:

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

Well, gosh darnit.  There ya go, ho, ya done it again.  The media discussing you is an example of them exercising their right to free speech, not limiting your own.  Now, candidates for president suggesting the media should not contradict them, that’s a threat to free speech.

But then, she is a Republican.  I think our last Republican President got used to the idea that “Freedom of Speech” had nothing to do with whether or not the president is supposed to listen to the public’s opinion.  Let’s not let another president so benighted occupy the White House.


Let The Games Begin

Early voting has already started in a number of states.  Can you imagine?  You can vote before watching even one debate.  I realize many of us have already made up our minds, but is it really good for our nation’s sense of civics that people are not even bothering to weigh what they see in these debates?

Or are we just fooling ourselves in thinking debates have any real impact anymore?