Let’s politicize America’s death problem, or, guns may not kill people, but someone still died

Another day, another horrific shooting in America. And every time progressives come together and whisper to one another, “maybe this will be the one that sparks action.” But not one seems to spark anything but “gun control now” on the left, “more guns” on the right and complete stasis in Washington.

If there is a common theme after these things happen, it’s the call that we not “politicize” the event right now, in the immediate aftermath. Some people really are too heartbroken to discuss much of anything after tragedies like these. But most people fall into one of two camps: either they think “politicizing” the issue will look bad and draw false ire and outrage from the other side, making reasonable discussion impossible, or they think that by producing conditions where it’s impossible to discuss fixing the issue right away, the strong feelings brought about by events like these will gradually drift away, leaving behind the status quo.

I question what these latter two camps think “politicize” means. A society that can’t protect its children, its future, has a huge problem. Politics, perhaps too indirectly these days, is about solving society’s problems in some way or another. So let’s politicize, if it means solving the problem.

To get there, I beg all of you to look in earnest at what happened today. Here it is, gloves off: six adults and twenty children, the oldest of them ten, were murdered today. Period. Full stop. It shouldn’t matter where, by whose hand they were slain, what their racial composition was, what kind of community it was, who there parents were, how rich they were, what kind of school it was or even how they were killed. I mean, these were people. Living, breathing human beings. There’s no excuse for them to be gunned down. Less so because they were mostly completely innocent children, but we need to get to the place where it is universally unacceptable for human beings, sans qualification, to die of anything but natural causes in this country. Yes, nothing but natural causes. Impossible as it might seem to prevent all gun violence, war, car accidents, cancer and every other mortal evil, until we reach that mindset I don’t think the American project – life being the first of the unalienable rights – will ever be complete.

There are many different opinions on how we can solve the gun violence problem we have in this country. But I don’t know if it’s limited to a gun violence problem. We have a death problem. We glorify it. Make television shows, movies, books, games about it. Most of this media involves guns, yes, because they are the most efficient tools of death an average person can wield effectively. So we can’t ignore that they and their glorification are a large part of the problem. But they aren’t the only problem. The overarching problem is that we tolerate preventable death in this country. Death from gun violence, death from starvation, death from preventable illness, death from accidents in badly regulated environments, death from pollution…death.

One mistake a lot of activists make is getting bogged down in the gun problem alone, opening themselves to an avalanche of slogans, (often shaky) statistics, stories of unlikely (and likely unrepeatable) heroism and two-bit constitutional law theory designed to stop the conversation in its tracks. But it’s hard to defend death.

So, I beg us all to focus the discussion on the tragedy and how to stop it from recurring. Twenty young kids are not going to be at the dinner table tonight because somebody shot them. We should all be talking and listening, in earnest, about how to prevent this specific ill – the loss of human life. Not talking in terms of statistics or constitutional theory. Not hiding out of fear that politicization will taint the process. Not trying to shut out voices by crying foul or deliberately shutting the conversation down.

We should be coming together to solve death in America, whatever it takes.

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