Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Presidential Tears Over Guns Mask Real Issue
Today's top headlines aren't about President Obama's executive orders for more gun control measures. Today's headlines are about those tears he shed as he trotted out liberalism's same old rhetoric about violence involving guns.
Now, to remind you, I'm no Second Amendment warrior. But neither am I convinced that guns are the problem with violence involving guns. The problem is violence itself, and our society's lust for it. There are other developed countries in the world with similar ratios of guns to citizens where gun-involved violence isn't nearly so prevalent. Yet we focus on guns, because... they don't automatically aim themselves at human beings and pull their own trigger?
But I digress... back to the emotional episode today in the East Room of the White House.
Yes, tears usually make for compelling news, but what's compelling here is the political gamesmanship such drops of salty water risk corrupting.
After all, should presidential tears on the subject of violence be noteworthy? Don't let crocodile tears on the part of a partisan politician fool you: Most all Americans - Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal - are "mad" (the President's word) that young schoolchildren were shot to death in Sandy Hook.
It doesn't matter whether you want more gun control legislation, or less gun control legislation: having innocent people being slaughtered by angry people with guns makes most of us mad. Precious few of us want to be murdered - at that hands of a gunman, or anybody. That's a major reason why these mass shootings make the big headlines. This kind of stuff should not be happening anywhere, let alone in the United States of America. Right?
It's not that any president doesn't have the right to cry when a particularly emotional topic is discussed at a press conference. Crying isn't itself unpresidential. But for any president to use their tears as an insinuation that people who don't agree with their proposed solution to the problem at hand are somehow less humane, or less concerned about the problem, is disingenuous.
Is this type of emotional grandstanding genuine leadership? Leadership may allow one's self to be vulnerable at a time of crisis - and the wave of mass killings we're witnessing in our country is a valid crisis - but tears are not a valid tool when partisanship is what's really in play.
Granted, a few of the President's orders - such as increasing the FBI's staffing for a more robust background checking process - are fairly benign, even if they smack of more big-government bloat. And he's correct in wondering out loud why we can put security passwords on smartphones but not on guns.
But the pivotal fact remains that no president can convince angry people not to use violence to try and address their problems. It's already illegal to murder somebody, but people commit murder every day. This is one of those bigger issues that politicians like to think they can fix, but that none of them really can.
Actually, if the reason why President Obama was crying today in the East Room stemmed from his realization that he actually can't control violence in our society, then I take all this back that I've written about his crocodile tears.
Which, of course, still means that the onus is on every single one of us to take personal responsibility for whether - and how - we promote violence in our entertainment, our language, and our attitudes. Especially when it comes to the role violence should play in how we resolve interpersonal conflict.
An executive order may create an aura of action for the duration of the current presidency. Just as tears can create an aura of urgent grief during a press conference.
Would that the transitory nature of such public displays actually erases the permanent effects of our society's propensity for violence.
After all, whether it's by gunshot, knife blade, or shrapnel from an explosion, the ways people use to deploy their violent urges tends to leave some sort of scar that no amount of salty water can dilute.