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.