Only in this capital of self-absorbed arrogance do people learn of an incomprehensible slaughter of angelic children huddled in terror and immediately think — well, of themselves. And how they can, in their boundless power and wisdom, fix it so it never happens again. Only in this town do people witness such madness and carnage and think of — what else? — low, dirty politics.
As the rest of the world recoiled in disbelief, then wept in black sorrow, politicians here began their jockeying, spinning their designs for new laws that would save us from ourselves and cast themselves as great and heroic statesmen.
We must do something about America's "gun culture," they earnestly bleat like unthinking sheep.
A 20-year-old man grows up in America with every luxury imaginable. He is incapable, we are told, of feeling any pain. He is excruciatingly shy and utterly isolated. He is not able to fathom that other people around him have emotions and feelings. Computers and modern technology are his most treasured haven. He plays, we are told, vividly lifelike and violent video games that coach perfect muscle memory for quickly killing large numbers of people without a hint of remorse. Then someone — reportedly, his mother — teaches this unstable sociopath how to shoot guns and then leaves the guns so they somehow become available to him. And then, emerging from his isolation, he lashes out and kills at random 20 small children in retaliation for his own miserable life.
And these people around here want to talk about America's "gun culture?" How about this culture of irresponsibility? How about this culture of isolation, this culture of technology and vivid violent role-playing over and over and over again? What about the culture of loneliness and divorce and despair? This culture of painless living?
No, they only talk about the "gun culture" because it sounds like a pat and easy answer to score some political points and raise a little campaign cash. Never mind that it is a craven insult to millions of good, responsible, God-fearing gun-owners across this country who would have gladly laid down their lives to save just one of those children. The line for that, literally, would be miles and miles long.
These people around here ignore all the other cultures of evil because those other evils are far more complicated and uncomfortable to discuss. They require thoughtful and honest introspection, of which they are not capable. And they require the humility of acknowledging their own human frailties — also not something to which they are accustomed.
Instead, they step forward and announce that it is time to blame the tools that were misused instead the ticking time bombs that led someone to commit such an atrocity.
Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat, preened before the adoring press, saying that he now blames the violent mayhem, at least in part, on guns. Does this mean he is partly to blame for the massacre since he didn't hold these beliefs before this one was carried out? You know, back when he needed that "A" rating from the National Rifle Association?
So, too, comes Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, who had a similar epiphany Friday that the lead and steel of guns and ammunition were, at least partly, to blame for the atrocity. This is the same guy who in desperation to get elected to the Senate ran a television ad in which he fired a high-powered rifle into a global warming bill to distance himself from the leaders of his party. Then he unveiled and played with a different high-powered rifle in another ad earlier this year.
So I guess it should come as little surprise, then, that these people are so quick to use guns as political props even as so many tiny caskets are being lowered into the eternal ground.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.