by Benjamin J. Kirby
It's days like today I hate having a political blog. What can you say about the tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado on a blog like this and not have it shrouded in the ugly veil of politics?
I don't even know if you're supposed to say anything anymore, for fear of politicizing the tragedy, at the apparent expense of the victims and their families. Now we can't talk about guns, because that's politicizing the tragedy. You can't talk about the shooter or his obvious mental illness because speaking of him takes away, somehow, from our honoring his victims.
Indeed, there are new rules and prescriptions of time around just about anything. TV commentator Chris Hayes can't talk about whether dead soldiers should be called "heroes" or not on Memorial Day. When Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was nearly killed by a gunman -- who went on to kill six others -- in 2011, I recall that despite the horror, despite the fear and sadness we all felt, there was still an underlying script we all had to follow. And the script called for waiting a day or so before we could talk about guns without getting scolded by someone saying you were disrespecting the dead.
Of course, the script also calls for some idiot politician to say something stupid, and we weren't disappointed this time, either. I don't know what dishonors the dead more: when our "leaders" use the tragedy to demonize those of differing faith traditions, or not waiting whatever the right amount of time is to bring up issues of public safety and public policy. Maybe somebody smarter than me can weigh in.
Well, I don't know what the script calls for this time. I don't know.
And I don't really care.
Because it's on days like that that all I can do is think about my two babies and their mother. There was a baby in that movie theater in Aurora. I noticed on Facebook earlier there were some parental scolds bringing up parenting skills. Maybe we can tackle untreated mental illness and immediate access to rapid-fire mass killing machines before we get to Parenting 101.
Yes, there were parents, and kids, and families. Maybe most of those folks in there had a father who worried to the point it made him sick to his stomach that some day they'd walk into a movie theater expecting to check out of reality for a couple of hours, only to be faced with the harshest reality you can possibly know -- or worse.
I've talked about this before. I want for my children a neverending lifetime of the kind of great joy and unbridled happiness they bring to me every single day. I don't want them to know the horror of a movie theater gunman, to feel unsafe at a Congress-on-your-corner event, like the one Gabby Giffords was hosting when she was shot.
I don't ever want them to really think about the fact that there are about 20 mass shootings every single year, and what that might mean for them, or, someday, their children.
And so I'm ready to have the conversation right now, today. I'm ready to say enough is enough. The 2nd Amendment may guarantee a right, but Americans, at long last, have a responsibility. It is a responsibility to the safety of our communities, our friends and neighbors, and our children. It is time to quit living in the fantasyland that somehow more guns make us safer. It is time to once and for all put to rest the notion that anyone needs an AR-15 assault rifle for any reason other than to murder other people. It is time for politicians to tell the NRA to back off.
I'm also ready to have the conversation about mental illness in this country. It is too early to know, but it seems reasonable to deduce that we'll disover the alleged shooter they have in custody, a young man named James Holmes, will have some kind of deep, terrible mental illness.
I've already seen too many Tweets and too many comments about locking him up and throwing away the key, or executing him -- both of which are tantamount to throwing him away. I'm not suggesting the man not be brought to justice, but we also need to have the hard conversation about whether or not our justice system is equipped to deal with people who have profound mental illness.
The questions around mental illness end up being about whether help was available for him, and if it was, why didn't he get it. The questions end up being about societal safety nets. Was there one for James Holmes? Even if there was would it have prevented this? I don't know. That's why we talk about things. That's why we have conversations about things.
The sooner, the better.