Amazing news. I just read that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords may be released from the hospital since being shot in the head a little over two weeks ago. My continued prayers to her, her family, and the many people impacted by this horrible tragedy.
During the aftermath, countless pundits, talking heads, and commentators have chimed in regarding the shooting. So there certainly hasn’t been a shortage of viewpoints shared. But I think one of the most convincing op-eds I’ve read to date comes by way of New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. Instead of focusing on the blame game or even the impact of inflammatory rhetoric in political circles, Herbert challenges us to examine the shootings in Arizona in a much broader context.
Says Mr. Herbert:
If we want to reverse the flood tide of killing in this country, we’ll have to do a hell of a lot more than bad-mouth a few sorry politicians and lame-brained talking heads. We need to face up to the fact that this is an insanely violent society. The vitriol that has become an integral part of our political rhetoric, most egregiously from the right, is just one of the myriad contributing factors in a society saturated in blood.
He goes on to provide harrowing statistics to validate his claim:
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, more than a million people have been killed with guns in the United States since 1968, when Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were killed. That figure includes suicides and accidental deaths. But homicides, deliberate killings, are a perennial scourge, and not just with guns.
Excluding the people killed in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, more than 150,000 Americans have been murdered since the beginning of the 21st century [bolded for emphasis]. This endlessly proliferating parade of death, which does not spare women or children, ought to make our knees go weak. But we never even notice most of the killings. Homicide is white noise in this society.
Finally, he offers his solutions:
If we were serious, if we really wanted to cut down on the killings, we’d have to do two things. We’d have to radically restrict the availability of guns while at the same time beginning the very hard work of trying to change a culture that glorifies and embraces violence as entertainment, and views violence as an appropriate and effective response to the things that bother us.
I give the man kudos. Lost in the endless debate examining the relationship between political rhetoric and violence are PRACTICAL solutions. In that spirit, I like how Mr. Herbert offers solutions which – at least on the surface – appear less partisan in nature and more pragmatic.
However, I think he – like many others – fall short of having discussions encompassing the full range of factors which contribute to the proliferation of violence. While stricter gun control laws and challenging a culture which fetishizing violence may lead to a decline in violence, leaving these as the only options is incomplete and irresponsible. Missing from the conversation – and what HAS been missing for a long while, IMO – are questions surrounding other relevant factors including mental health and poverty. Researchers have been investigating the roles mental illness and economic distress have played in violence for DECADES. But I haven’t noticed much public discourse commensurately reflective of that research. I could be wrong, but I just don’t see it.
The op-ed ends with a sad, but in my opinion, very real assessment of where we typically ‘go from here’:
For whatever reasons, neither the public nor the politicians seem to really care how many Americans are murdered — unless it’s in a terror attack by foreigners. The two most common responses to violence in the U.S. are to ignore it or be entertained by it. The horror prompted by the attack in Tucson on Saturday will pass. The outrage will fade. The murders will continue.
As much as I don’t want to accept this postulation as fact, it is. We witnessed another string of senseless deaths. The media was in a frenzy to report the news (not without adding their spin, of course). We were “outraged.” And now we’re moving on to the next story and perhaps indirectly, are waiting for the next tragedy.
What are your thoughts? Does the key to curbing violence lie in gun control? Glamorizing violence? Addressing mental health? Economic conditions? What do you think?