It's now just a little more than a week after the tragic shootings in Tuscon, an eternity in an Internet-driven world. It has taken barely that amount of time for the debate over the shootings to devolve into predictable efforts to pretend that, apart from the personal tragedies involved, none of this matters for us as Americans. We're a nation of spotlessly wonderful people, except for the occasional deranged apolitical lunatic who abuses the Second Amendment rights of all to express his or her lunacy.
Or so the party line goes. Take a look at Time's whitewash of the subject. Or, for that matter, Charles Blow's in The New York Times. (Shame on you, Charles. I thought you knew better.)
Well, we're not all wonderful, and we're certainly not all spotless. And, while the shooter in this instance was far from mentally stable, it's patently ridiculous to pretend that this has no implications for our political system.
Not when (ahem) the person being targeted is a politician, and especially one who had been previously targeted not only with threats, but also actual acts of violence in connection with her vote on health care reform.
Not when that politician is a Democrat, in a state full of Republican officials (including the governor, both U.S. Senators and nearly the entire House of Representatives delegation).
Not when the shooting takes place in an atmosphere fill not simply with the language of violence and armed revolt, but the actual weapons themselves. Doesn't such an atmosphere almost guarantee the eventual use of those weapons? Of course it does. Didn't it do so 16 years ago, in Oklahoma City?
Not when the aforesaid atmosphere is deliberately perpetuated, even after the shooting, even in the same state, and even to the point of blaming the victim (or, in this case, the victim who was targeted).
And why in the name of God or anything else should we comfort ourselves with the fact that the shooter was deranged? His derangement didn't stop him from legally buying a handgun, nor did his inability to pass an Army drug test or his arrest on drug charges!
If ever there was a moment to seriously consider sensible legislation to keep firearms out of the hands of easy-to-identify time bombs like Jared Loughner, it's now, before the next Gabrielle Giffords gets targeted. Regulating something that is potentially dangerous is something that we do with anything that could potentially be misused--even toys.
To regulate a right is not to deny it. We regulate freedom of speech and assembly, even though the language of the First Amendment contains no provisions for regulation. We regulate the Second Amendment's right to bear arms already, whether we want to face that fact or not. I don't recall Charlton Heston saying "I'll give up my MIRV when you pry it from my cold dead hands!" And, like it or not, the Second Amendment as written would have covered artillery as well as hand-held arms. After all, it was written with militia men in mind (or it was, until Nino Scalia used Alice in Wonderland logic to decide that the Framers couldn't have meant what they said in their original language, even as he was searching for the intent in their original language).
Sadly, the politics of today do not permit any member of either party to advance the kind of legislation that would stop the next lunatic dead in his tracks. In the meantime, we all go on wanting to believe the best in everyone, while the worst of us continue to stoke their anger higher and higher. Thankfully, there are writers like Frank Rich and Paul Krugman who really "get it."
And as long as a single American is in danger because of the deniers who look at devils in the face and pretend they're angels because they want so much to believe they're in Heaven, I'll go right on telling the truth.
Because the lies are literally killing us, one by one.