For 20 years, at least, we’ve been hearing about the dangers of “anger” in American politics. Angry white men are the scapegoats for all our problems, including several mass shootings that were perpetrated by the mentally ill. But now, in the wake of this shooting, anger isn’t the disease, it’s the cure. “We should mourn, but we should be angry,” insists E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post. He continues: “The horror in Newtown, Conn., should shake us out of the cowardice, the fear, the evasion and the opportunism that prevents our political system from acting to curb gun violence.”
Except, our political system has acted to curb gun violence. Violent crime in general, gun violence, and school violence have all dropped dramatically over the last 20 years, even as the number (and lethality) of guns in America has risen dramatically. It’s not even obvious that mass killings are on the rise.
It seems that Dionne, and countless others, want to use fear, evasion, and opportunism in the wake of this tragedy to win an argument they couldn’t win when passion was in check.