I’ve written before about the need for passionate moderates: People who energetically seek compromise while taking stands based on the issue at hand without regard to labels such as conservative or progressive, Tea Partier or liberal.
Nowhere is the need greater than in formulating America’s response to the string of massacres culminating — at least for now — in Newtown, Conn.
There are partial solutions a’plenty and none involve rocket science. In fact, they’ve already been mentioned by local voices in the pages of the Triplicate. The non-compromisers will tell you that only some of these proposals are valid. But the fact is, they all are.
• Violence as entertainment: Killing people is obscene, and yet we limit access to pornography much more than we limit access to video games where players choose their weapons and go on murderous sprees. Sometimes the victims are unsympathetic, but oftentimes players can kill anyone they choose, including bystanders — the special effects are the same.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board already advises parents and retailers alike about the appropriateness of certain games for certain age levels. But let’s face it: plenty of these games are inappropriate for all ages. We should treat them the same way we treat the vilest forms of legal pornography — stores that opt to provide them should put them behind their counters. And if the public starts to view these establishments as the equivalent of adult bookstores, all the better.
Again, killing people is obscene. Movies that contain an inordinate amount of violence should be rated X. The movie industry is self-policing. While submitting films to the ratings of the Motion Picture Association of America is voluntary, many theater chains won’t show them if they are unrated.
Giving films that are full of gratuitous violence an X rating would prevent children from seeing them in theaters. What gets shown in homes is up to parents, but the message would be delivered to people of all ages: watching this stuff in movies or TV shows is as socially acceptable as watching porn.
• TV news media and voyeurism: Each massacre becomes a 24/7 mini-series on CNN, FOX and MSNBC, as every detail is told and retold over the course of several days. Unless they have the good sense to turn it off, viewers are force-fed far beyond the nutritional value of understanding what happened.
Just hours after the Newtown atrocity, a CNN anchorwoman said the network was limiting its mention of the shooter’s name. The TV folks obviously understand that wallowing in the aftermath has the potential to encourage other deranged people to grab the media spotlight by slaughtering innocents. But CNN soon abandoned its stand, splashing the killer’s face on the screen with regularity as it tracked down anyone who had ever crossed his path.
When you’ve seen enough, change the channel for the duration of the media siege, but first drop an email to the networks telling them you’re turning it off.
• Ignoring the mentally ill: A lot of these atrocities are committed by people with no criminal record, but they’ve almost all shown themselves to be mentally disturbed before they started pulling triggers. For decades now, the national trend has been to close institutions and “mainstream” the mentally ill. Then budget cuts happen, out-patient programs shrink or die, and suddenly the professionals most often dealing with mentally unstable people are cops, jailers and hospital emergency room workers.
To ignore their needs is inhumane, and clearly we do so at our own risk. Spending more to treat the mentally ill will mean spending less to deal with their dysfunction.
• Guns that just don’t belong: Some large-magazine, semi-automatic weapons really have no purpose beyond firing a whole lot of bullets very quickly. They’re not what people need for hunting or home safety. They’re not even much good for target practice at a firing range.
If gun-rights extremists want to contend these weapons are necessary in case of foreign invasion or to fight an American government that takes a dictatorial turn, they should explain how civilians packing them will hold off military tanks, helicopters and hand-held missile-launchers.
Their sale and possession should be outlawed nationwide. That’s not disarming Americans. The right to possess them must give way to this fact: Their proliferation increases the chance of Americans being slaughtered by deranged people who might otherwise be less heavily armed.
• Fighting back: The people in charge of every large gathering place, from schools to office buildings, from stores to theaters, should consider designating certain employees as armed, trained security marshals capable of firing back if innocents come under attack.
That doesn’t mean arming every schoolteacher, but laws against guns near schools should exempt the people designated to protect them, even if they aren’t police officers.
By making it less likely that a maniac will have semi-automatic firepower and more likely that someone will be shooting back, we will save lives.