On account of a variety of presidential, departmental, and gubernatorial proclamations, we’ve lowered our nation’s flag to half-staff four or five times in the last month. On Friday I lowered it for the shooting victims of Aurora, Colorado. We won’t raise it again until Wednesday. I feel like we abuse our flag this way, and ourselves, by being in a perpetual state of symbolic mourning. I think it cheapens the idea of official mourning and renders it rather meaningless.
Despite the recent unpleasantness, the insincere and indulgent spectacle of leaders and commentators tearing at their clothes, we went to see “The Dark Knight Rises” on Saturday . There wasn’t any security theater— just regular motion picture theater, a crowd, and a pretty good movie. It gave me some hope that people weren’t cowering at home in reaction to the latest media event.
(The film, incidentally, is about a government unable to govern fairly, and citizens unable to carry out their democratic duties responsibly. Batman solves both problems with brutal and decisive violence.)
I’ve mostly avoided the news this weekend, and the predictable shouting about gun control. I did find today a calm, reasonable, yet passionate article by Jason Alexander, an actor, about the gulf between the Second Amendment and the unregulated self-arming of belligerent extremists. Like Jason Alexander, I’ve tried very hard to not let my dislike of gun fetishism and trigger-happy social engineering get in the way of my belief in the constitutional validity of responsible gun ownership.
Unlike Jason Alexander, I see these mass shootings more as symptoms of mental health problems (something nobody— politicians, the media, anyone— ever wants to talk about) than of lax gun control. Clearly, Colorado’s permissive conceal-and-carry, make-my-day gun laws didn’t deter this clown from assaulting those theater goers. But whatever it is about our society that produces such antisocial, hyper-individualistic berserkers with stunning regularity deserves examination as much as our gun laws.
So when we raise our flags to full-staff on Wednesday, we’ll have only completed another exercise in feigned solemnity. We’ll take a break for a while until the next appointed outrage. Meanwhile another psychopath is going untreated.