The surest sign a political regime is failing is its inability to do anything about a problem that is universally seen as urgent and has some obvious remedies. And it’s a mark of political corruption when unaccountable cliques block solutions that enjoy broad support and force their selfish interests to prevail over the common good. On gun violence, the United States has become a corrupt failed state.
This is the only conclusion to draw from the endless enraging replays of the same political paralysis, no matter how many children are gunned down at our schools or how many innocent Americans are slaughtered at shopping centers and other public places. Whatever happens, we can’t ban assault weapons, we can’t strengthen background checks, we can’t do anything.
In corrupt failed states, politics is about lying and misdirection. On guns, our debate is a pack of lies and evasions. In no other country is the phrase “thoughts and prayers” a sacrilege, a cover for cowardice. In no other country are the words “mental health” so empty. They are muttered by politicians who have no history of caring in the least about programs to help those with psychological or psychiatric difficulties. But they need to say something to rationalize their allegiance to a gun lobby that appears to be utterly indifferent to mass murder.
President Trump’s rote address to the nation after the killing of seventeen people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, had all the passion of a CEO delivering a middling annual report. He told us: “We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools and tackle the difficult issue of mental health.”
Trump’s speech, as Vox’s German Lopez observed, was “one giant lie by omission.” Those seventeen people were killed by an AR-15, not by a knife or a sword or a bomb. But God forbid the president mention guns. Vox also noted that people with mental illness are more likely to be the victims, not the perpetrators, of violence. Yes, and if Trump cared so much about mental health, he wouldn’t be proposing a $250 billion cut to Medicaid, which pays for more than 25 percent of the nation’s mental health care.
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