On the subject of the Colorado theater shooting, Time's Michael Grunwald writes:
... I feel terrible about what happened in that movie theater, and I'm agnostic about gun control, but there is nothing wrong with politicizing tragedy.Grunwald is right when he says that politics is how we work out the way we run the country, and so we should have political debates about serious life-or-death issues -- or he would be right if we were actually capable of moving forward after having those debates in a direction that might change the way we do things, and if we would keep trying to make good-faith efforts to solve problems until we'd made some genuine progress.
The talking heads don't like it, because they think of politics as a silly game about who sang out of tune and whose words can be used against them and whose surrogate undercut whose message, but politics is about life and death and human suffering. At least that's what it should be about.
If advocates or experts or even politicians think their policy ideas can prevent the next Aurora -- by preventing potential killers from obtaining guns, by making sure potential victims can carry guns, or by some other method -- then by all means, now is the time to spread the word. Pretty soon, the pundits will be back to "you people" and "you didn't build this" and whatever new verbal gaffe overwhelms the competition to lead the free world.
... politics matters, because policies matter....
That's how politics should work. But in America right now, that's not how politics does work. Gun policy in America is like tax policy in Washington: we can't move to the left because of relentless Republican opposition, and while we can move to the right a bit, there's still enough Democratic resistance to prevent us from moving all the way to the right, although a slow, steady rightward drift is obvious. But we've been drifting right for so long that a little more rightward drift feels like stasis. (It also doesn't do anything to deal with the problem.) Bottom line: we argue and argue and nothing really changes. So politics is just about the arguing (at least when it's not about speeding up that rightward drift).
If this were a healthy country, Grunwald would be absolutely right bout the appropriateness of having a political debate on guns. But this is not a healthy country. We say we want to prevent massacres like this, but we can't try a lot of what might work. That's how our politics operates. So maybe we should all just shut up -- not because we should in the abstract, but because it's an exercise in futility.