The Rhetoric of Crisis
Whenever there is a crisis, especially in the school shooting zone, people look for answers.
Whenever there is a crisis, especially in the nature of something as horrific as a school shooting (or terrorist attacks, or any other form of crime involving so much malice), there are the opportunists waiting to pounce.
So far I’ve seen all the usual suspects. Yes, there are people calling for banning all guns. I don’t think we need to go that far.
Then we have the usual right wing tropes. The “MOAR GUNZ” crowd have been out in force all over the place. We see dishonest memes like this proliferate from the Moar Gunz crowd, the idea that in Israel every teacher has a gun (not true), or that if only one of the teachers in the school had had a gun it would have meant the death of the gunman (again unlikely).
We are blinded to the real statistics and studies about gun violence. They cease to have meaning, emotions are running high and a reasoned and thinking response is just not going to happen.
And then come the bible peddlers. Mike Huckabee pushing the meme that having “God” in schools would have stopped this. His cohorts in the right wing radio land jumping in fast. In the past couple of days, I haven’t been able to tune in a talk show without hearing this meme. And yet, for all their rhetoric, it certainly seems that there were as many shootings in the days of “God in the classrooms” as there are now. Memory is a funny thing. So many people think that history begins the day they were first old enough to hold a crayon, and that nothing before really happened. This is especially true for the “use this as an excuse to indoctrinate kids about the imaginary friend in the sky” crowd.
The more we learn about the shooter, the more he looks like he might have had serious issues like “Michael”. It’s possible his mother was trying to shelter the world from him as much as him from the world. It’s equally possible, given what Zic pointed out, that there was something else going on in their home that will take a lot longer to come out.
We need to have a lot of honest debates. There need to be debates about the reach of guns, the needless glorification of guns in American society. We need to have honest debate about the fact that the justice system has been used for far too long as a substitute for a real system to deal with mental illness, assist those who are stricken by it, and perhaps, yes, a need to mandate that those with mental illness issues be in care for it. Someone randomly exploding, causing a horrific tragedy, is a public face for mental illness, but there are how many victims of mental illness who are never guilty of more than vagrancy or petty crime, who fall in and out of the system because the system isn’t equipped to recognize their real issue? We need to have a discussion in society about the community recognizing when things are wrong, and not just putting odd behavior out of sight and out of mind.
But we’re not likely to get those discussions right now. We’re going to have the gun-ban crowd and the Moar Gunz crowd shouting slogans at each other. We’re going to have screams about the need for a legislative solution, some magic band-aid law that can somehow prevent something like this from ever happening again, just like we did in the days after every other incident. The question of mental illness will recede, as it always does; the question of the possible influences – was there bullying, was there abuse that wasn’t spotted, was there something else in the picture – will recede as well, as the initial shock of the event recedes and the name is only ever brought up for rhetorical purposes, much like the name Columbine.
We need the honest discussions. Now isn’t the right time to have them, but that’s only because there is no right time to have them; after waiting for “the right time” when this has happened before, the right time never came. So I think the right time to have those honest discussions is now, not because it’s the right time, but because it’s the only time. History shows us: either we have the honest discussions now, or they just won’t happen.