Friday, February 16, 2018

The Decent Thing

     I, the galactically renowned Curmudgeon Emeritus to the World Wide Web, have written feelingly and forcefully about the true meaning of decency. Indeed, I did so just last week. And inasmuch as I’m the apotheosis of intellectual penetration, wholesome values, and contextual appropriateness in commentary, the natural conclusion would be that the rest of the Commentariat would immediately take my sentiments to heart and strive to find the decent thing to say in the wake of a tragic event such as the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

     Apparently, that isn’t the case.

     The left side of the opinion-editorial world immediately sought to blame the atrocity on:

  • Guns;
  • The National Rifle Association;
  • The Republican Party.

     Perhaps that was predictable. The Left has completely jettisoned the concept of decency. It has only political aims. To speak or act in deference to the personal considerations of those affected by an event is alien to them. All that matters is dragging public opinion toward their agenda.

     But wait: there’s more! Commentators on the Right, both high and low, have succumbed to the temptation to counter-politicize the atrocity: specifically, to expend their column-inches, air time, and pixel counts on counter-arguments and refutations of the Left’s refutable claims.

     Utterly indecent. No doubt the temptation the Left presented by its leap to politicization was difficult to resist. Nevertheless, it should have been resisted.

     Well, one must be grateful for small favors. At least the matter provides me with a “test bed” in which to demonstrate decency and indecency in the treatment of a horrifying event.

     A nineteen year old plotted to take many lives. He equipped himself for the task, went to where it would be convenient to act, and killed without compunction for awhile. Then he fled and remained at large for a brief time, until the police apprehended him.

     Children had died. Families had been sundered. A peaceable community had been put on notice that its most vulnerable members were anything but safe. Immediately thereafter, opinion-mongers set to their self-appointed tasks of politicization.

     But what would have been decent? How about some restraint? How about news reports confined to a recitation of the known facts, as I did in the first paragraph of this segment? If opinion-editorialists must say something about the slaughter, how about offering their prayers, sympathies, and material assistance to the victims and their families? In earlier decades of the Republic, that would have been considered the decent thing to say. Indeed, nothing beyond that would have been tolerated. Political exploitation of the suffering and sorrows of innocent persons would have been recognized immediately as indecent.

     Do you remember the Challenger disaster? Do you remember how the media handled it? In the immediate aftermath, even persons on the extremes of the political spectrum restrained themselves. Even commentators desperate for material with which to attack the Reagan Administration managed not to orate on the subject, though in later weeks we learned about the several snafus that led more or less predictably to the loss of the space shuttle and the seven lives aboard it. It was a demonstration of decency, and it wasn’t that long ago.

     There’s a huge gulf between the treatment of that tragedy and the treatment of the Parkland massacre. It implies a transformation-in-kind of our public discourse, and not one of which we should be proud.

     I could go on about this for thousands of words. I shan’t; my point is one about which it’s unnecessary to go on at length, at least if my Gentle Readers have a shred of decency remaining to them. But I will provide an example of an indecency that no one has yet tried to put over. Hopefully it will stimulate some thought.

     School shootings, the most swiftly politicized events in contemporary American life, all take schools. Places where the young are gathered, more or less against their will, and compelled to remain for several hours, five days per week, lacking all recourse for concealment or defense. Let’s leave aside for the moment that most schools are “gun-free zones.” Let’s focus instead on the vulnerability of minors concentrated in an easily identified locale. What comes to mind at once? What’s the easiest and most straightforward way to prevent a school shooting from happening, ever again?

     That’s right: Ban schools. Eliminate these concentration camps for helpless victims. Imagine the improvement in the morale of our youth at being freed from compulsory vulnerability to any maniac with a gun! Imagine the savings to parents at not having to buy school supplies! And imagine the savings to taxpayers at not having to pay for these juvenile day prisons! Do it for the children!

     Besides, the kids probably aren’t learning much anyway.


D. Gottfried said...

My wife always asks in these situations, "Where was the church?". Surely over the course of that young man's adolescence, there were missed opportunities for good men of faith to have reached out to him. Obviously, his issues were complicated. Is it easy? No. Are gestures of good will received gladly? Not always. Will one always succeed? No. Does my finger point at me? Certainly. The core problem lies in the heart. That is where the healing and behavior editing is most effective. The heart is also where unabated anger, resentment and hurt can boil over into the unspeakable. I preach to the choir here. I think that the greater failure lies in the myriad of lost opportunities to have effectively reached out and connected with a very troubled and overloaded youth. Not making excuses for him. At this point righteous justice will be a terrible thing to behold. "Responsibility" probably spreads further than we care to imagine.

Michael Downing said...

Fran the best article I read on the path that has brought us to this place strikes at the heart of he problem. Evil exists. I am 65 years old and I know there has always been Evil. When I was young Evil moved in the shadows and operated in the darkness. But times have changed and too many people have not only accepted Evil but seemingly embraced it. Evil is free to walk among us no longer afraid of the light. Unless we embrace the Light over darkness this will not change.