Friday, February 1, 2013

We Must Do Something

Ronald Reagan said that the most
terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.
He was wrong, of course. 

The most terrifying are the ones spoken so movingly yesterday in a Senate hearing by Gabrielle Giffords.
We must do something.
She didn't say what as she read slowly, haltingly from a handwritten sheet of paper, skipping one word, changing another.

She didn't say what because . . . . Hell, I don't know why.  Because she doesn't know what? Because it's more than she can articulate since she was shot? Because it doesn't matter?

Violence is a big problem
Too many children are dying
Too many children
We must do something
You know, for the children.

She's right.  Violence is a big problem.  And too many people are dying.

Too many adults.  Too many kids.  Too many people on the streets and in the schools and the workplaces and the prisons and god knows on the highway.  Too many people in Tennessee and Texas and Montana and Michigan and Ohio and Oklahoma and in Chicago and DC and at a strip mall in Arizona and a movie theater in Colorado and a college in Virginia and an elementary school in Connecticut.  Too many people in Kabul and Damascus and Tel Aviv and Bangkok and Bolivia and Somalia and in Mexican towns near the Rio Grande River. Too many people in my neighborhood and in yours.

It's really awful.

David Clarke is the Sheriff in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.  His solution is to tell people to get themselves armed to protect themselves because the cops can't or won't do it.  Calling 911 won't work.

Wayne LaPierre wants more guns, and more law enforcement.

Diane Feinstein wants fewer guns.

New York wants just enacted a law designed to require fewer bullets.

Or maybe it's more cops or more tanks or more drones. Maybe it's better background checks or mental health services or more tax dollars or fewer.  Maybe it's Obamacare or the fact that A-Rod's lying again (if he is) about performance-enhancing drugs or that Beyoncé fessed up to lip-synching the national anthem. Surely it's more laws creating more crimes. And more criminals.

We must do something, though.  Even if it won't make a difference.  Even if we have no idea what will or will not make things better.  Even if we can't even agree on what better would mean. Even, god help us, if it might make things worse.  Because, you know.

We must do something.

The aftermath of tragedy is the absolute worst time to do anything.  That's when we can't think clearly, when we don't.  When we act for the sake of acting.  Machismo at its absolute worst.

We must do something.

OK, here's something.  Take a deep breath.  Let it out slowly.  



  1. Well, Jeff, it didn't just happen for Gabbie Giffords and her husband. And it didn't just happen for the parents of lots of other children who were killed. Yes, we should be careful and try to do something that might help, and nothing that will make it worse. But we also shouldn't keep ignoring it and hoping it will go away. It won't.

  2. I'm not suggesting ignoring anything. I am suggesting that the call to do "something," now, immediately, untethered from real and serious consideration of what to do that will actually go some distance toward preventing violence without advancing us toward a police state is exceedingly dangerous.

    Something must be done" is what got us the War on Drugs and the Adam Walsh Act and the Patriot Act and government-authorized sexual molestation at the airport by TSA Agents. "Something must be done" eviscerated the 4th Amendment. It's eviscerating large parts of the 5th and 6th, too. Oh, and the excessive bail provisions of the 8th.

    I'm more worried right now about what will be done than I am that nothing will.