When tragedy strikes too often we look to government for a solution. In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, we heard much about gun control and calls to action by Congress. This “government needs to do something” approach has proven time and time again to be a failed response to tragic events in our country. I don’t know when we began looking to lawmakers for a remedy to a societal problem. Perhaps it was during the Great Depression with the advent of the CCC, or when Social Security or Medicare were instituted as safety nets. Both of those programs are valuable to many in America, however, we cannot view the success of those programs as an indicator that government should be looked to as the ultimate problem solver for all things wrong in this world.
Laws fail at dictating human behavior. We have drastically fewer abortions now than we did when abortion became legal. Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation, yet retains the highest gun violence in the nation. What keeps you and I from committing a homicide or a theft is not the fear of incarceration or the death penalty, it’s our belief in the Golden Rule. Our societal problems are much more complicated than that which can be remedied with the passage of legislation. The problem of increased gun violence is more likely related to failures in humanity than access to weaponry. The common denominator seems to be a perception that human life has limited value, that a single person is entitled to take the life of others for a cause or selfish desires, that basic human decency is relegated to the instant gratification one gets from a quip or insult slung into cyberspace or social media.
What we seem to be missing is humanity, and government cannot create or dictate humanity. Our concern for one another comes from community, from family, from friendship, from faith, from in-person communication. These are facets of life that rarely, if ever, require government involvement. What is required, is a drastic change from the race to the bottom some seem to relish in. We cannot restore humanity and at the same time retain a desire to see others fail. Relishing in another’s failure used to be un-American but now seems common just by cursory review of media headlines and social media sites.
Perhaps if we limited our reliance on government, put down our iPhones and actually spoke to one another, paid attention to the things that really matter rather than salacious gossip or 24-hour “news” coverage, we would enhance the strength of our communities and restore values of kindness and decency. Admittedly, this is less of an issue in our community than it seems to be in more metropolitan areas, and I don’t know if these actions would affect the prevalence of atrocities in our nation. I do know that the constant overestimation of the capabilities of government and the undervaluation of humanity has done nothing to stop the atrocities from occurring. For the sake of our country and our safety, it’s time to pivot and try a different option.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.