Platitude. Platitude. Blah blah blah. Noble sentiment. Platitude. Quote scripture. Platitude. Say something patriotic. God bless America. Make excuses. Repeat until queasy feelings of guilt go away, or are at least buried deep enough to stop waking you up at night. Repeat until the stark reality of what is happening in this increasingly wounded -"maybe-dying country is cocooned in puffy clouds and bunnies and flowers. Repeat until the razor-thin shiver of fear recedes into the background noise of rush hour traffic. Because, all of those platitudes and all of those noble sentiments, and all of those candles and flowers and right and left wing talking heads pondering the mysteries of the power of rhetoric (and if I hear the word "vitriol' one more time I will puke)will not magically initiate some kind of sea change or paradigm shift here. They will not. And we know it.
The reason for this is that the changes, that we all would like to slap a coat of onto the surface of the latest violent mass murder in this country, like painting over a stained wall, are totally superficial. We are, as usual, tap dancing around the real issue, the core of the problem. The president makes a beautiful speech. He talks about how heartbroken we are; he talks about what a "family' Americans are. He singles out the heroes (and they ARE that, but not because they left their homes that morning intending to be so); he speaks eloquent lines in tribute to the ones he calls "the fallen.' And will this do anything to prevent the next wacko with an itchy trigger finger and a foot in a parallel universe from acting out his fevered nightmare scenario? I wish it could.
And it isn't about gun laws; and it isn't about more security for our elected officials. And it isn't, for eff's sake, more guns and plexiglass in congress (unless they're going to start playing hockey in there) that we need. What we need is answers to the nasty little questions that most of us avoid at all cost, and they are simple questions. The answers, however, aren't so simple, and we don't like that. We want nice, tidy, shiny packages with loud, brightly colored answers.
Those lumpy, ugly, very un-shiny questions that have no easy answers include: why is it that the citizens of this country in particular feel that the only way to solve our problems is to shoot someone, or rather, lots of someones? Why are we so afraid of each other? Why are so many of us "mentally ill?" Why are we the only creatures on this planet teeming with life that feel compelled to commit murder? Why do we think that guns will solve our problems, when all they do is create more problems, along with an ever-increasing body count? And why is it that these particular few fallen are revered when our soldiers are across the world shooting at many other innocents who, just like those at the Giffords "meet and greet," want to go shopping, live their lives, and maybe splash in puddles when it rains.
Oh, what an opportunity this provides for the media. The pundits can spend hours and days and maybe even weeks, since this is, after all, about a member of congress, wearing their solemn faces and using their big words (except on Fox) and interviewing an endless procession of doctors and shrinks and police officers and third cousins twice removed, and each other, all to support their corporate sponsors and to milk this puppy for as long as they can. Jaded? Me? Well, yup.
I do not mean to sound callous about what happened to Congresswoman Giffords and Judge Roll and all of the other people who died because yet another nutcase easily got his mitts on a weapon. It's awful. But all the speeches in the world won't bring back the dead, and it won't change the fact that these people are just the latest in a long line of those who went before them because of the ease with which sick people can purchase firearms. Rachel Maddow, earlier this week, opened her show with a segment about that long line of victims who just got bumped back a few notches on the list because of last week's additions. She showed headlines going back past Columbine, each of which had to do with incidents of mass murder involving guns in America. The rhetoric was exactly the same in every single one. People were so shocked; it was unfathomable, inconceivable, unbelievable. Where have these people been hanging out for the past decade or so? After the fifth or sixth incident, I would suggest that a different word than "unbelievable' might be a better choice. Unbelievable just doesn't cut it anymore. All too believable, wrenchingly believable, infuriatingly unbelievable.
And what about those thousands of innocents we are murdering overseas, without the excuse of "mental illness" that Loughner is able to use to explain his actions? How believable is that? And why don't we seem to care very much about those people?
And what will we do now? Platitudes, anyone?