Not long after learning of yesterday’s horrible news of a mass shooting, I thought about the post I’d started writing after earlier horrible news of a mass shooting, then finished after still other horrible news of a mass shooting. I referenced it in a tweet, and was promptly called out by a couple of people who objected, strenuously, to bringing up anything with a whiff of politics. Why?
This is not the day.
I should have expected replies like that. But why? What is the logic of that reflexive response—even from people who don’t support loosening gun regulations–every time some sad individual takes a gun and kills a dozen or more of his fellow human beings?
I am not talking about self-serving commentary by those looking to cash in politically or financially. Think of Mitt Romney grotesquely distorting recent American public diplomacy in the Middle East hours after the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens or, on a lesser level of offensiveness, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) demanding publicly that Apple “set the record straight” about the reception of the iPhone 4’s antenna or all of those foolish publicists who think calling out a recent tragedy in a PR pitch will get reporters to cover the client’s product.
No, I am speaking of citizens who want to know what went wrong and what we could have done to prevent it. What other reaction could we possibly have to an atrocity like the murder of 20 children? (As the father of a two-year-old, I was almost shaking with rage at one point yesterday.) Wondering what we could have done differently is, as Maggie Koerth-Baker noted astutely, is part of the bargaining stage of grief.
This is what we’ve done after a hurricane floods subway tunnels and shuts out the lights across much of New York City, a highway bridge collapses, a space shuttle breaks up on reentry, and hijackers fly airplanes into buildings. We would be less than functioning, inquisitive human beings if we did not ask if we could have done anything different, even on The Day.
That may “politicize the tragedy.” But so does attempting to short-circuit any discussion about our options because This Is Not The Day. And in a democracy, politics is how we have to solve some of our biggest problems.
So to those of you who want to use your First Amendment rights to defend your Second Amendment rights the next time, please find another talking point. Because this one does not help your cause. And this discussion could use your reasoned input, not your denial.