Signe Wilkinson inadvertently reminds me of a lost opportunity, in that several years ago when on-line services were still fairly new, I playfully suggested setting up something with a URL perhaps like "grief.com" which would operate like FTD.
Then, when there was a tragedy in the news, people, no matter how far away they lived, could log onto the website and order a teddy bear or flowers to be set up there on the sidewalk in their name.
I could have been posting this from my private island in the South Pacific.
Taking it as metaphor rather than suggestion, however, she's right on: We're champions at adding endless, sentimental, empty condolences as a substitute for doing anything meaningful to actually help prevent the next "tragedy."
And I put "tragedy" in quotation marks because, like "hero," it's a term we toss around indiscriminately as part of that process of substituting cheap, mawkish sentiment for substantive help.
We've cheapened both terms to the point of meaninglessness.
I took another look at Aristotle's definitions of tragedy and of tragic hero, and they don't include stupid, foreseeable, random acts from which we learn nothing.
Which -- to catapult forward about two millennia -- is why, at the end of "Romeo and Juliet," the Prince does not simply weep over the death of two young people, but says:
Where be these enemies?—Capulet! Montague!
See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love;
And I, for winking at your discords too,
Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish’d.
Moreover, he promises to take action in the name of justice, and Shakespeare saw no need to write any more, given the lessons obviously learned by both families and by their ruler who acknowledged and regretted his failure as a leader.
Today, in the era of endless sequels, the Bard could have written another, similar play set in Verona, and then another, and then yet another, with, at the end of each, the Prince once more promising action.
Steve Breen points out the cause of this folly, but hardly excuses it.
The NRA isn't helping solve the problem, but their considerable influence in Congress has a couple of causes, one of which is certainly the gutlessness of individual members, but that only as a subset of the influence of money in elections.
Open-ended campaign spending not only allows donors to intimidate legislators but also allows them to gin up the public fear factor, so that voters support legislators who don't need to have their arms twisted in order to fall into lockstep.
However, as the NRA says, we've got plenty of gun laws that we don't enforce, and we should focus on them rather than proposing new legislation.
I'd suggest that we could start by making sure states share their background check data, so that a person turned down in one state can't simply go somewhere else and appear -- according to the federal records -- to be clear to purchase.
As this graphic from Everytown indicates, that crucial sharing of information is not happening.
If these non-cooperative states don't want to be part of a federal background check system, maybe they can't be forced to, in which case it's up to residents to work that out.
Though if the feds can influence school reform through the threat of withholding education funds, and healthy school lunches through USDA funding, and were able to use highway funds to dictate both a switch to uniform drinking ages and 55-mph speed limits (the latter since withdrawn), it's hard to believe they couldn't find a way to persuade states to share background check information.
Those Second Amendment advocates who say we don't need new gun laws, just better enforcement of the ones we have, would surely applaud the move.
And, sarcasm aside, here's another reason not to blame the NRA: After Sandy Hook, there was a lot of call for better mental health services, and many stories were told of families who were unable to obtain help for mentally ill family members.
What has happened since? Well, more shootings by mentally ill people, certainly.
But you know what I meant. And you probably know the answer, too.
Last night, NBC Nightly News noted that three presidents have visited the city to celebrate its resilience.
Here, Matt Wuerker draws one of them.
Take up the bodies: such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.