Fellow Americans, we need to talk.
It’s happened again. Yesterday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California was the 352nd in the U.S. in 2015. There have been more mass shootings than there have been days so far this year. This time, a public health facility that serves people with intellectual disabilities was targeted, for reasons that will never make any sense.
But here’s the thing: We are all culpable. This keeps happening, and we keep having the same ridiculous, entrenched arguments that incapacitate our nation and leave the door wide open for more senseless violence.
The public conversation is the same every time: It’s a gun control problem. No, it’s a mental health care problem. Politicians and the media line up to take a position on one side or the other. Everyone has a favorite hobby horse and a favorite line of defense. We hash and re-hash the same, tired debate and wonder why this keeps happening.
We can blame the media. We can blame politicians. But ultimately, we are to blame. We the people allow this to happen. We align with a particular political agenda and fall in step behind the rhetoric. We allow complex issues to be oversimplified into easily-packaged 60-second segments. We quickly regurgitate lines and arguments that resonate.
I am a fairly informed and intelligent citizen, but I don’t understand why this keeps happening. My guess is you don’t, either. I don’t think any of us really have a handle on what this disease is that’s eating away at the soul of our culture, stealing the lives of far too many innocent people.
Let’s stop pretending we have the answers. Let’s stop jumping on political bandwagons, shouting the same old lines at each other. Let’s have a discussion that acknowledges the truth: This is a complex problem that’s pretty unlikely to have one simple solution. Yes, we clearly are facing a mental health crisis, with no apparent idea how to address it. Let’s also admit that extremely deadly weapons are regularly ending up in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, costing an unacceptable price in lives lost.
Let’s demand funding for research on gun violence so we have information instead of endless opinion. (See this article on why the CDC is not currently conducting that research.) Let’s fund serious mental health research and talk to serious people about practical solutions. Let’s acknowledge that solving this problem will likely cost money, and that we all have to have a part in that. (Emergency medical care and massive crisis response operations aren’t exactly free.)
I’m honestly not convinced we have the collective will to do this. Our nation is in a terrible place. We don’t seem able to work together to solve problems. We are very attached to our rhetoric and our hobby horses. Which is why I’m making this a very personal appeal: Put down that hobby horse. Step away from the rhetoric. Demand that your public representatives do the same. Let San Bernardino be the final straw. Let this be the event that galvanizes a nation to work together to find real answers.