Last Saturday, a guy with a lot more ammunition than mental stability fired 31 rounds into a crowd at a political event outside a supermarket. It isn’t clear to me whether his goal was to commit murder specifically—of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords—or to commit mayhem generally.
Among his accomplishments was to stir up a week of shouting by the people who get paid a lot to shout. Better writers than I have written many words on the subject, and I don’t pretend for a moment that I have any insights or an analysis to compete with those that have been so widely published since last Saturday.
So far the writer making the most sense to me is Frank Rich, who points out in today’s column in the New York Times that the two issues that this horrible incident should be raising to headlines are the two things that are least likely to change as a result of this incident: gun control and mental health care. Also I am grateful for President Obama’s speech, which elevated the public conversation, especially when it called critical attention to the conversation.
But I’ve barely heard or read about the part that seems most important to me. The lede has been buried again and again. The details of that man’s delusions are irrelevant. The popular political discourse is almost as horrifying as the frequency with which mass shootings like these seem to fill the news, but that discourse is not directly relevant. I mean no disrespect for Rep. Giffords, nor the others injured; may her recovery and theirs be fuller and swifter than we dare hope. Nor do I mean to dismiss the questions we need to ask about mental illness, mental health care, gun control, and how close to the brink of chaos our society dwells. These issues are serious and important.
But what is indisputably germane is what we have barely heard and read.
Six people were killed, and we don’t even know their names.
May their memories be a blessing to those who knew them. May their memories not be wasted by the rest of us thinking that their tragedy is fodder for careless argument.
A Kaddish for the six who died. May they rest in peace.