I have written before about the deplorable state of political discourse in this country. In fact I'd like to start out with a paragraph from a piece I wrote a couple of months ago:
"The real problem with this open animosity is that it allows the actual issues of the day to be pushed to the side in an all out attempt to win. You see the idea that the end of the world is nigh becomes the driving force behind all political action. Politicians use the most extreme language to describe the opposition in order to evoke a visceral reaction from their followers. The actual policies are not the important thing, the most important thing that voters take away from these demagogues is that if the opposition wins, their lives as they know it will be over. I could get into more complicated explanations about the backlash of white males and the similarities to the strategies employed by Nixon in '68 and even more forcefully in '72, but there really is no need. Both parties are guilty of overuse of hyperbole in describing the repercussions to America should their opponents be victorious in the next election."
The tragedy in Arizona over the weekend has given us all another chance to sharpen our collective rhetorical knives and start attacking the other side. The problem, once again, is that the issue, the real issue is being lost. The issue that should be at the forefront is how was this nut was able to 1) legally buy a gun and 2) buy one that held a 30 bullet clip. His attack was finally stopped when he had to reload that gun. What exactly are the gun laws in Arizona? Isn't it time to revisit the laws pertaining to what exactly is needed by a civilian in order to go hunting or to protect their home? When are we going to get serious about enforcing the assault weapons ban?
I know the gun lobby was already painting the President as someone who would take their guns away when he got into office and so this issue has received no attention from this administration or this Congress. I would hope that this horrible incident will allow those in government the opportunity to discuss this problem with slightly less rhetoric than usual. The people who died and were injured should not be used as fodder for a new round of political name calling and finger pointing. There is a real issue here and while the political discourse needs to find a new level of civility, that is not the main point that we should be discussing. There are literally people's lives at stake here. You can't stop insane people from thinking insane thoughts and committing insane deeds, but perhaps our government can try a little harder to keep the instruments of mass mayhem out of their hands.