It is now two days until Christmas, and as I was casting about for something to write about today, I got so depressed that I thought I'd write this little essay instead. Over my entire lifetime, I can not remember a time when the Holiday Season was as dreary as it is in 2012.
The reason is simple—there is nothing to be festive about. Nothing at all. America is a defeated nation, and its self-defeating behavior is everywhere on display.
The 2012 election charade, which changed nothing, morphed seamlessly into a Fiscal Cliff charade which only proves beyond a shadow of doubt that nothing changed. This silly debate is the latest distraction "designed" to give Americans the impression that important changes are afoot. Nothing could be further from the truth. This country's fate was cast in stone decades ago. No current policy debate changes our fate in the slightest, but these sham debates do serve to remind us of how helpless we feel.
As if that weren't depressing enough, the ghastly massacre at an elementary school in Newtown is still fresh in our minds, and has now morphed into the usual, futile gun control debate. This showed up in my e-mail inbox, from the Wall Street Journal—
The National Rifle Association, in its first public remarks since the Connecticut school shooting, proposed putting armed police officers in "every school in this nation." NRA CEO and Vice President Wayne LaPierre said gun-free school zones tell killers that schools are places to inflict maximum pain at minimum risk, saying "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." He blamed the media and entertainment industries for treating violence as a "joke." Two protesters holding signs holding anti-NRA signs interrupted the speech and were escorted out.
The notion that more guns make us safe is insane. Bat-shit crazy. (I don't really have to spell that out for you, do I?) If you read my post Adam Lanza's Mother Was A Doomer, it might even occur to you here to add 2 + 2 together to get 4. In short, the "prepper" view also says that more guns will make them safe. You can see what happened in the Lanza case. That's why I started that post off this way—
This post is about mental health, or lack thereof. God Only Knows we can't change the Human Condition, but we can control how we react to it and how we live within it. The rule of thumb for sane people says try to not to make things worse than they already are. But crazy people can't help but make things worse because they're crazy, and of course they don't know it.
Perhaps now you can see what I meant by that. And as I also said, American society breeds mental illness like there's no tomorrow. If you doubt that, merely turn on the TV. Then, as I was reading about this absurd gun control debate, I read There's Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre by Megan McArdle at the Daily Beast.
Most crimes are motivated by unlovely impulses that are at least comprehensible: the desire for money, sex, respect, revenge. We don't do these things because we have been taught that "good people don't do that!"--and we want to think of ourselves as good people, or at least have the neighbors and our parents think of us as good people. Or perhaps we're merely afraid of getting caught and punished. But we can understand why people want to--we know what someone is after when they hold up a liquor store, or even kills their spouse for the insurance money. Understanding is not sanction: these crimes still have the power to anger and horrify. But they're comprehensible, and that comprehensibility is surprisingly comforting.
The alternative is Newtown. When one tries to picture the mind that plans it, one quickly comes to a dead end. Even if I had been raised with no moral laws at all, even if there were no cops and no prisons, I'm pretty sure that I still wouldn't want to spend a crisp Friday morning shooting cowering children. Trying to climb this mountain of wickedness is like trying to climb a glass wall with your bare hands. What happened there is pure evil, and evil, unlike common badness, gives an ordinary mind no foothold.
Since we can't understand it, we can't change it. And since we can't change it, our best hope is to box it in. Gun control opponents are angry that liberals immediately started talking about gun control, but this seems like a natural instinct to me. It's not the best way to get good policy, mind you; hard cases make bad laws, and rules passed in the wake of tragedies tend to be over-specific, and under-careful about unintended consequences. But it's not somehow indelicate to want to talk about this now; if thirty children had been killed in a landslide, I hope that we'd be talking about whether there might be some way to keep that from happening in the future.
Maybe Megan's limited little mind can't understand what happened at Newtown, but of course what happened there is comprehensible. Start with my short post Rambo Versus The Kindergarten, and then read The President's Remarks At Newtown, and then read the Doomer post. Megan therefore concludes that "we can't change it [and] our best hope is to box it in." The only box here is the one Megan lives in. I don't believe I've ever seen such a frank admission that when it comes to comprehending and changing the Human Condition, and all the terrible things humans do, our species is simply not up to the task, our species does not have the Right Stuff. What you see is what you get and always will be. Live with it.
And if humans can't change their behavior, which implies they can't regulate it or box it in, because (like Megan) they live in The Kingdom of The Blind, and that's really the issue here, then they will never be able to prevent atrocities like the one that happened in Newtown. Megan doesn't want to talk about the Human Condition, which is not surprising, but she especially doesn't want to talk about the abject failure which passes for "culture" in the "society" called the United States because these paramount, fundamental problems don't exist for her. For example, America's astonishing homicide and incarceration rates didn't arise from nothing. It is literally unthinkable for humans beings (like Megan) to question the very nature and legitimacy of the society they live in, let alone the never-changing tragicomedy called the Human Condition.
That satirical Onion video I put up on Friday ends like this—
Lawmakers have reached a bipartisan agreement that the U.S. desperately needs tigher firearm restrictions, or looser firearm restrictions, or, according to a Belt Way insider, quote, "honestly whatever option makes these things stop, do that one." President Obama's speech this week on the proposed reforms is expected to last five straight days, and will culminate with a vote on whether or not to call this whole America thing off.
Sounds good to me.
Bonus Video — Here's George. I used this video in The Kingdom Of The Blind (linked-in above)