Image by BrianWestChest via FlickrWhen the shootings happened at Virginia Tech, the liberals were quick to point to all the ways Conservatives and gun laws were at fault. I refrained from writing about that for a long time not wanting to make political hay of an unspeakable and unthinkable tragedy. I finally did weigh in. This week, in the wake of the killings in Tucson, I also wanted to avoid jumping into the fray of finger pointing.
Instead of just accepting the fact that some things are beyond our control, we human beings (myself included) like to think we can control everything. The fact of the matter is we cannot. While Buddhism teaches every effect has a cause and I truly believe that is the case- everything is dependent on what came before; we live in a world of almost infinite causes and some are extremely subtle. We cannot know exactly what causes what, even though we can look at contributing factors. Who knows what goes on in the mind of someone who thinks a political "opponent" deserves to die for daring to disagree with him? When a mind has gone far enough around the bend to gun down old people and little girls for the sake of "glory", can we really claim to know how that mind works and what we might have done to keep the man who is obviously insane somehow in check?
No, I don't blame Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or any of the the other right wing crazies for the deaths of those people in Tucson. While I have called for a more civil political discourse (before and after this tragedy), it's not just to keep the nutjobs in check. It's because it's the best thing for our country. One can hardly compromise (the word John Boehner hates) or even find common ground (the term he prefers) with someone that one is purporting to be intentionally destroying the country. It's almost impossible to get anything productive done in an environment where people portray their colleagues who disagree with them as mortal enemies. Does such talk contribute to the fantasies like this crazy? Maybe... Probably... But, do we really need the threat of crazies taking to the streets with guns to convince us that toning down the rhetoric is a good idea? Can't we be civil for the sake of being more fully human and for the sake of being able to work together more effectively?
In the wake of this, we're hearing renewed calls for gun control. We all know that guns don't kill people. People kill people. But, guns sure make it a lot easier and faster. While we can't know exactly what was going on in this guy's mind and we probably couldn't have stopped him from firing a single shot that day, we do know that he was able to fire 30 rounds before reloading. I do want to review and reinstate the ban on assault weapons. There isn't a single good reason why anyone, crazy or not, needs a gun that can shoot thirty rounds before being reloaded. Having a ban on extended clips wouldn't have made the outcome for the first couple of people shot in Tucson. But, it might have saved the last wounded or the last two or three killed. Make crazies reload sooner to give people an opportunity to take them down sooner.
So, instead of the left blaming the right for this tragedy and the right saying this guy was some sort of lefty because of his reading list and saying "Well, you use violent speech too" why don't we just stop it? Maybe the rhetoric contributed to this tragedy. Maybe it didn't. But, what are we going to lose by knocking it off and acting like grown ups. As President Obama said, I'd like to make our democracy as good as it appears in the eyes of our children. They are watching us, they are learning from us. Let's not let them down.