Three truths for dealing with another mass shooting


By Tom Ehrich

Even as emergency vehicles were racing to an "active shooter situation" in San Bernardino, CA, people on social media were beginning to respond.

Some just posted news reports. Others cried, "Not again!" A few passed along rumors. But for the most part -- at least in the small section of Facebook that I see -- people just wanted friends to know an event was unfolding.

Over the next hours and days, many more details will emerge. So will many more responses. Then will come the parsing of responses, as partisans try to spin the event their way. Among other things, they will scoff at those whose initial response didn't get the details right.

We've been around this track often enough in recent years to know some basic truths:

First, we all have a right to care about such things. Our caring isn't measured by our getting details and nuances right. Eventually, facts will be facts. But let's agree to honor those whose first reaction is uninformed. We belong to each other. Knowing that one more community is suffering has to be enough for now. We aren't forming mobs and storming the vulnerable. We're just agonizing over senseless violence.

Second, we know that partisan spinners will deliberately distort the facts for their own gain. Let's agree not to be taken in. Those who lie are broken in their own way. We know we are deeply divided as a nation and, thanks to blowhard politicians, getting more divided. Some will always seek to profit from divisions. Our regard for the nation should send us in a different direction, in search of good information and accurate reporting.

Third, the issue will continue to be fear. Some are frightened of fellow-citizens carrying firearms. Others are frightened of having their weapons taken away. So it goes in the toxic realm of guns. Some are frightened of law enforcement officials being sent into situations for which they have too much weaponry and too little training. Others are frightened of lawlessness reaching into the very malls and office buildings where they travel.

The answer to fear is always bravery. If we are to remain the "land of the free," we need also to be the "home of the brave." We evidently can't expect courage from our politicians, so bravery will need to come from us.

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