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Plain Talk: Americans — the GOP in particular — are indeed 'unmoved by death'

Plain Talk: Americans — the GOP in particular — are indeed 'unmoved by death'

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"Americans are stubbornly unmoved by death."

That headline on a Washington Post piece, following yet another mass killing — this one that left 10 dead in Boulder, Colorado — caught my attention.

The killings have become so commonplace, wrote Robin Givhan, that they're shrugged off as just another news story. They often don't make the front pages of newspapers any more. The State Journal ran the story on the Colorado massacre on page 8.

Perhaps this unconcern for dying neighbors explains why so many Americans willfully scorned coronavirus safety measures while hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens were dying all around them.

"And still the deaths don’t spur action to make the guns harder to get, to make the guns less efficient. The president, some politicians and many activists cry out for 'common sense' gun laws to stop the senseless death even as it seems that they are pleading with a country that’s engaged in a completely different kind of calculation," she wrote. "Increasingly it seems that we simply do not care about the other person, that other family, someone else’s child. The self is everything. It’s freedom and liberty, whims and desires. Community doesn’t extend beyond one’s front door. Everything else is someone else’s concern."

We see that attitude played out in our own state Legislature.

It was personified by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, when asked about what should be done to address the continuing violence, responded by implying there really is nothing that can be done about it. All you can do is wait for the killings and then respond by apprehending the killer.


Madison State Sen. Melissa Agard was aghast, as were countless others.

“Saying that there is little we can do as a state to prevent gun violence beyond arresting perpetrators is ignorant of the facts and puts our communities at risk. States that have put common sense gun safety measures in place have lowered incidents of gun violence,” she pointed out. “I am appalled by this lack of basic humanity."

She went on to point out that jurisdictions that have enacted tougher background checks and waiting periods have seen reductions in gun violence.

But, what Vos, speaking for the majority of Republicans in the state Legislature, was saying was the obvious: forget about introducing gun safety proposals, because his compatriots have no interest in even considering them.

They proved that in 2019, when Gov. Tony Evers called a special session to consider gun safety proposals. Vos and then-Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald orchestrated a made-for-TV show by gaveling in the special session and then dramatically adjourning within seconds to underscore their disdain for any attempt to address our gun violence epidemic. 

In other words, let the mayhem continue. Nothing we can do about it anyhow. Talk about inspired leadership. Guess they never heard Winston Churchill's admonition: "Never give in."

It's that same uncaring attitude that this Republican dominance of state government has brought to the health care problems in Wisconsin.

While the coronavirus pandemic was killing thousands of Wisconsinites, legislators stayed at home and kept throwing stones at the governor's attempts to slow the spread of the virus. Trying to prevent people from dying was turned into raw political gotcha moments.

One GOP legislator, state Rep. James Edming of Glen Flora, even suggested that the state shouldn't administer the COVID-19 vaccine because he refuses to believe that it could be developed in less than a year. He even told an Assembly committee that "we should eliminate" it, conflating the vaccine with an 80-year-old incident of the mother-in-law of a friend who died after taking it. Apparently, it is better to allow people to die than take a scientifically-approved remedy.

That same disregard for human life is at play in the continued stubbornness by the Republican caucus to even consider expanding Medicaid, an act that would allow tens of thousands of Wisconsinites without health coverage to seek care. That would be welfare, Vos and several of his colleagues, contend. Better to let them get sick than give them a handout — a "handout" that would be financed by the federal government at no cost to the state. Not even the health care problems exposed by a worldwide pandemic are enough to change their minds.

Voters keep sending these same politicians back to Madison. Indeed, it seems that Washington Post column is right — we've become unmoved by death.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. dzweifel@madison.com608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.  

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