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Column

Wimbiscus: Why can't we talk about the guns?

Bill Wimbiscus
Bill Wimbiscus

Forty-nine dead in Orlando, Florida.

Guy hates gays.

Fourteen dead in San Bernardino, California.

Couple hates non-Muslims.

Nine dead in Charleston, South Carolina, church.

Racist hates blacks.

Twenty-six dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Punk hates children.

And now 58 dead in Las Vegas.

Man hates … God only knows what.

What’s the common thread between these and dozens of other mass shootings?

I mean, besides the guns?

The hate.

That, and that they all occurred in the United States of America.

The United States of America.

Kind of a misnomer since, with each passing day, we appear to become a little less united.

Sometimes it seems like the whole country is falling apart. The stress fractures are readily apparent: Economic disparity is at an all-time high. Race relations continue to deteriorate.

Hate crimes have become endemic in our society. As have mass shootings, last Sunday’s being one of the worst in U.S. history.

These are all troubling issues, issues that Washington probably should be dealing with. But don’t expect relief anytime soon. Congress is even more divided than the nation it’s supposed to represent, split into two diametrically opposed camps with absolutely no middle ground.

And the president? Well, he’s leading by tweet, attacking our enemies, the people who dare oppose him. People like the Supreme Leader of North Korea. And the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico. And the National Football League.

In that light, do you really think any kind of meaningful leadership is going to occur in the wake of the Sunday’s tragedy? Think again.

Congress couldn’t come together after Orlando. It couldn’t come together after San Bernardino. It couldn’t come together after Charleston. It couldn’t come together after Sandy Hook. It couldn’t come together even after two of its own members were shot. Why should Vegas be any different?

The White House, for its part, says now is not the time to debate the issue. It’s the time to unite. You know, by doing constructive stuff. Like taunting Kim Jong-Un. Or burning footballs. Or tossing paper towels to hurricane victims.

I guess none of this should come as any real surprise. Our elected leaders are supposed to be a reflection of us. The scariest thing is that maybe they are.

Americans don’t seem to cut one another much slack anymore, especially when those Americans have views that differ from their own.

But then it’s a lot easier to contemptuously dismiss one another’s viewpoints than intelligently discuss them. Just read virtually any online messaging board and you’ll see what I mean.

It used to be the only topics never discussed in polite company were religion and politics. These days you can add racism, police enforcement, immigration and anything involving either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to the growing list of subjects Americans are unable to have a civil dialogue about.

Why should gun control be any different?

Here’s the real problem: If you can’t talk about an issue, then you can’t fix it. If you can’t fix the issue, then it usually only gets worse. Like it did last Sunday.

I don’t know if more stringent gun laws are the answer, but I do know this: failing to find any common ground on the issue for the last couple decades sure hasn’t helped much.

• Bill Wimbiscus, former reporter and editor for The Herald-News, has lived in Joliet for 25 years. He can be reached at news@theherald-news.com.

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