Hear no evil…

In Charles Krauthammer’s column Friday, he complains about the potential for the tragedy at Virginia Tech to be exploited for political gain.

What can be said about the Virginia Tech massacre? Very little. What should be said? Even less. The lives of 32 innocents, chosen randomly and without purpose, are extinguished most brutally by a deeply disturbed gunman. With an event such as this, consisting of nothing but suffering and tragedy, the only important questions are those of theodicy, of divine justice. Unfortunately, in today’s supercharged political atmosphere, there is the inevitable rush to get ideological mileage out of the carnage.

In a country that treats politics as a game, and where investigative journalism consists only of reporting the spin from the two major political parties, it’s not uncommon to assume that anyone raising questions about this tragedy is doing so only to “get ideological mileage out of the carnage.” But in reality, this is a flawed outlook that serves no purpose other than to obscure an already murky issue-the, real or imagined, dichotomy between safety and freedom.

No doubt there are plenty of opportunists willing to parley public tragedy for personal gain but Krauthammer makes the mistake assuming that describes everyone or even that motivations are in fact, at the core of the issue. Take gun control advocates, the primary target of Krauthammer’s screed. Regardless of the motives of a particular individual or political player, the issue of gun control is about protecting the personal safety of everyone. Whether or not you feel gun control will reduce or eliminate violence such as the Virginia Tech incident, (I personally don’t), the issue itself is not about anybody’s personal gain. Right or wrong, accurate or misguided, the intended purpose of gun control is to prevent these massacres from happening, so naturally they’re going to use these events as evidence for their position. In other words, if they’re wasn’t a gun violence problem in our society, there wouldn’t be gun control proponents. And this issue needs to be discussed on its own merits rather than the motivations of its advocates, which is really nothing more than a glorified ad hominen attack.

Another common attitude reflected in Krauthammer’s column is the pass the buck ploy, where you throw up your arms and declare the problem incomprehensible, not worthy of discussion, and simply leave it to god, “… the only important questions are those of theodicy, of divine justice.” Put another way, don’t bother to attempt to understand why violence is such a problem because then you might actually have to accept some responsibility for the culture that you’re a part of.

Oddly enough, after admonishing gun control advocates, or anyone else advancing an agenda, Krauthammer proceeds to advance his own agenda.

If we are going to look for a political issue here, the more relevant is not gun control but psychosis control. … In a previous age, such a troubled soul might have found himself at the state mental hospital rather than a state university.

I guess it’s only wrong to exploit mass murders when it’s someone else’s agenda. The fact is, open dialog and a willingness to examine all sides is our only hope at finding solutions to any of the problems facing us.

–Paul Wilden