Great quip that could apply to a lot of things your average conservative/libertarian opposes. “Don’t just do something, stand there!” From Jonah Goldberg in Our Reacquaintance with Terror
If one were to catalogue the reasons to bewail the slaughter of innocents in Newtown (or anywhere), the exhaustion of pundits would appear somewhere in the small-print appendix of a book-length list. Such a tragedy is a horror the rational mind cannot grasp, which is one reason, I think, that so many people want to wrestle it to the ground and corral it into comfortable arguments about gun-control laws and security protocols, much as proponents of the Kellogg-Briand Pact tried to reduce, and then eliminate, the horror of war by moving some paper around.
Indeed, when you read the debates over Kellogg-Briand, it is amazing how effortlessly proponents of outlawing war assumed that opposition to their efforts was the product of a “pro-war” mind. These days, one need pull back the curtain on the burlesque that is the Internet for only a moment to find outraged advocates of gun control accusing those who oppose it of wanting “more dead children” simply because they argue against the efficacy of such laws. It’s as if critics of snake oil had to be in favor of disease.
All the talk about the need for a “frank conversation” about guns and violence has an otherworldly quality to it. We have had exactly that conversation for decades. And as with other topics — particularly the perennial calls for an honest conversation about race — the intent seems to be to force a new version of an old argument that now, in the heat of a crisis, the former losers will win. I feel no small shame that the murders in Newtown have elicited in me preemptive exhaustion with that canned conversation, and resentment that so many are eager to have it again. Perhaps it reflects a character flaw on my part, but my first instinct after such a horror is not to don my op-ed uniform and run out on the playing field, at least not anymore.
We’ve been chewing over the word “terrorism” for so long that it now seems insipid. But the Newtown massacre is what real terrorism is: an act that causes reason and perspective to take flight and fear and dread to rule. That there is no political agenda behind it makes it all the more authentic and immune to the sort of “contextualizing” by which we would like to file it away more comfortably in our memories.
But it’s worth noting that one reason these atrocities hit us so hard is that violence is usually such a small part of our lives. Violence has fallen in America over the last few decades; it has declined massively in the West over the last few centuries; and, for the human race, it has plummeted over the last 100 millennia. For 99 percent of his time walking the earth, Homo sapiens has done so hip-deep in blood. If you survived an early death by disease or starvation, odds were good you’d die from a blow to the head or a spear through the gut.
Broadly speaking, and with a few obvious caveats, our lives are safer and less fearful than ever. These sudden bursts of violence are far more an exception than a rule. Of course, while such perspective might be intellectually reassuring, it does nothing to make the slaughter of small children easier to understand or contemplate. If anything, it makes it harder. So much harder.