This morning, my government students will be full of the news from the weekend's events in Arizona. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was already known to them; the race was on a list of competitive Congressional races that we all followed last November.
The shootings, the deaths, and all that such violence entails will likely consume our attention. As I always do, I will caution my students to follow reliable news sources and to avoid getting caught up in the panic of a 24 hours news media. I will point out our need to peacefully and respectfully disagree with one another.
I'm troubled by the vitriol in American political dialogue. I remind myself that this feature of our political life is neither new, nor rare. That's not necessarily comforting. And today's name-calling is made worse by the existence of a 24 hour media world. In a world in which we never stop talking, we are at risk for finally saying something regrettable, stupid, or downright dangerous. We could choose to dial back the volume, of course. But we haven't.
And in the meantime, lost in all our discussions of the nature of the political dialogue is the reality of the ease with which we can all obtain guns. After the Virginia Tech shooting, I was convinced that we would finally have a national dialogue about the dangers of easy access to guns. But that didn't happen. It's already looking to me like we'll skip that hard discussion this time around.
And I guess that's what I find so unsettling. There is no doubt that the nation will talk through every angle of the mess in Arizona. But will we learn anything?
Update: My friend M pointed me in the direction of today's Gail Collins' editorial in the New York Times. Collins is writing about the ease with which we can obtain guns in the U.S. and she's suggesting that's not such a great idea. To which I say that friend speaks my mind. Let's hope that Congress is listening.