Yes, it is about guns — and our own madness.
Someday, a shooter will walk into a school, probably a suburban school, somewhere in Michigan, and blow teachers and students away, most likely with a weapon no civilian should be allowed to own. When that happens, don’t give me any credit for prophecy.
What I said doesn’t take much more foresight than saying that it will undoubtedly snow again this winter. I am ashamed of myself, however, because I almost didn’t write about this.
After Sandy Hook, the massacre that left 20 six and seven-year-olds dead, I concluded that we love our guns more than our children.
We had a very decent man as President of the United States then, and he tried with all his might to get Congress to do something, but he failed. So I concluded nothing could be done.
We’ve become used to school shootings the way ancient peoples were used to famines. We must have angered the gods, and that’s that. We go through our stylized ritual grieving process.
The National Rifle Association, or NRA, prudently disappears from view for a couple days, before their surrogates begin mouthing that this is not really about guns, but insanity.
They are absolutely right, by the way.
It is about insanity – our own, for tolerating this madness, for allowing determined, well-funded fanatics to poison the heart of America. They’ve been winning for a long time. They’ve brainwashed us thoroughly, even me. When I heard the news two nights ago, I wondered first if there would be a record number of victims.
When I heard there weren’t, I moved on to seeing what idiocy the legislature was guilty of that day. I knew we’d get the same pictures and stories we always do, and nothing would happen. But I was jolted out of my grim complacency by two things.
First, I accidentally tuned into a radio interview with a citizen, evidently sane, who said the solution was to arm all teachers and require them to have marksmanship training.
Next, I was struck by the fact that the shooter, for once, didn’t kill himself when the police showed up. Instead, he blended into the crowd, went to Subway, and then went shopping. Hannah Arendt didn’t coin the phrase “banality of evil” for nothing.
We asked for this by failing to fight the crazy people who do love guns more than life, and who want us to believe that the men who wrote the Bill of Rights really would have wanted mentally disturbed teenagers to have the right to an assault rifle.
The New York Times has an editorial today titled “The NRA Can Be Beat,” and correctly puts the blame on our elected officials’ “fear of the wealthy gun lobby, to which they’ve allowed themselves to be held hostage for decades.”
We’ve allowed that too, and it is time to say no more. To not knowingly vote for anyone who takes money from the NRA, nor socially accept anyone who wants to facilitate mass murder.
Nor am I willing to respect the idea that steak knives are just as dangerous. I don’t know how long it will take to wake us all up. But I do know it starts by refusing to treat this holocaust as normal or inevitable, and by refusing to tolerate those who do.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.