Nuts With Guns

Another day, another massacre.

Well, it’s not quite an everyday occurrence, but it happens often enough to be profoundly disturbing.  A nut with guns enters a workplace, simmering about some perceived slight or other grievance, and opens fire for no apparent reason.  Innocent people are slaughtered, and the authorities are left scratching their heads about what could have caused the nut to go off in the first place.

Today, it happened at the Washington Navy Yard, where at least 12 people were killed before the suspected shooter, who was armed with an assault rifle, a handgun, and perhaps other weaponry, was finally killed himself.  The FBI identified the suspected shooter as Aaron Alexis, a former member of the Naval Reserve who apparently worked as a military contractor.  The Washington Post story linked above quotes witnesses who describe a scene of terror and chaos, where workers might turn down a familiar workplace hallway and find it converted into a shooting gallery by a gun-wielding lunatic.

How do we stop this?  Gun control advocates say that we must restrict the availability of guns, but it’s hard to believe that a deranged person bent on committing murder would hesitate to obtain illegal firearms with which to carry out his mad plan.  Supporters of gun rights argue that if more people were armed they would be able to defend themselves against the nutjobs and stop the slaughters before police arrive, but I’m leery of workplaces where everyone is toting a weapon and ready to launch a fusillade whenever an alarm bell sounds.

This seems to be a problem with no good solution.  In the meantime, those of us who work in large buildings wonder whether someday the fickle finger of fate will point at our workplace, and the nut with guns will show up at our front door.

Not Ready For 2016

When I opened a news website this morning I saw a story about Joe Biden making a campaign trip to Iowa.  When I saw a picture of him flashing a Cheshire cat grin as he posed with a child for a picture and read about his “2016 themes,” I groaned and briefly contemplated hurling myself off the nearest overpass.

I’m not ready for 2016.  I’m really not — and I don’t think the country is, either.  But political reporters can’t resist this stuff.  We’re still more than three years from the next election, and already you can find the campaign speculation stories out there, lurking out there like a blobfish, ready to surface at any time and cause us all to emit howls of rage and disgust.  Don’t count out Rand PaulHillary Clinton’s got a big decision to make as she weighs whether to throw her hat in the ringWhat’s Chris Christie going to do?

All of this inside-the-Beltway speculation may be loads of fun for the pundits and politicos, but it’s depressing for those of us out in the heartland.  Why?  There are several reasons.  First, we know that, when elections are on the horizon and the political posturing begins in earnest, nothing gets done.  And right now, we don’t need politicians who are focused on the next election, we need politicians who are focused on trying to figure out how to fix the economy so that people can get back to work.  It’s astonishing that the grim economic record of the past few years don’t get more meaningful attention, but our political leaders are adept at manufacturing distractions from the difficult problems at hand — and ridiculously premature election speculation is just another distraction.

Second, we already have a President.  When the next election becomes a focus, the existing President automatically becomes a lame duck.  We don’t need a lame duck, we need a President.  I’m no huge fan of President Obama, but I think three years of lame duck drift would be disastrous for our country.

Finally, the 2016 stories are disturbing because they expose the unfortunate lack of mature, capable leadership in our country.  Are people seriously considering Joe Biden for President?  Or Rand Paul?  Or Ted Cruz?  How many governors and senators command your confidence these days?  Look out at the presumed fields in the Republican and Democratic primaries and see if you can avoid an involuntary shudder.

So please, do me a favor.  Shut up about 2016 for a few years, will you?