If you’re one of those liberal morons who believes in personal responsibility or who thinks guns and mental health and our copycat media culture have something to do with America’s mass shooting problem, Bobby Jindal has a few choice words for you. Yesterday Jindal published a blog post about the Oregon shooting, warning readers in advance “that this is going to be a sermon” because, you know, “someone needs to speak the truth for a change.”
I hesitated even to cover this. Jindal no longer matters. He failed to mount a viable presidential campaign just as he failed to govern his own state, and for the same reasons. Soon enough he’ll be an afterthought, a half-remembered punchline. But his latest gambit, his “sermon” as he calls it, is arguably the most disgraceful thing he’s done or said since launching his quixotic campaign – and this is the guy who, among other things, has defended discrimination, supported creationism in public schools, decried imaginary Muslim no-go zones, led a rally whose supporters attributed natural disasters to gay people, and recommended arresting the mayors of “sanctuary cities.”
Jindal begins by telling us that something is “missing from this discussion, and it’s a glaring omission that everyone knows deep down.” Luckily, for us, Jindal gets it – he really, really gets it. He knows “the truth is important,” and damn it, he’s “going to talk about it.” So what’s “the root cause of all these evil acts,” Jindal rhetorically asks. Turns out this mass shooting “mess is not nearly as complicated as we pretend.” Indeed it’s reducible to a single cause: America’s “cultural decay.” If that delightfully ambiguous phrase doesn’t resonate with you, worry not. Jindal knows this is a hard truth to swallow, so he self-servingly asks you, the dear reader, to “Let that sink in for a minute.”
He then unpacks what he thinks are the causes of this violent “cultural rot.” After insisting that he was going to tell tough truths that other “politicians are afraid to talk about,” he promptly cites every tired talking point I’ve ever heard on this topic. First up: the glorification of violence “in virtually every element of our pop culture,” which includes TV, music, video games and, of course, Hollywood (Side note: It’s ironic to hear a guy who continually poses with firearms complaining about the glorification of violence). Next Jindal decries how much we’ve devalued human life, especially “the unborn.” But this would be more plausible if Jindal was equally concerned about the lives of the living. His state, for example, leads the nation in gun deaths – why no passionate pleas for the sanctity of these lives? Fostering a culture of life doesn’t end at the womb, Governor.
The other big problem is the “breakdown of the family, particularly the abdication of fathers.” We’ve raised up an army of valueless discontents, Jindal laments, and “we are completely fine with them watching people get murdered and raped on the internet after school.” Setting aside how utterly strange that last sentence is, Jindal’s point is that young men are filling schools and bodies with holes because they have “no father figure in their lives.” And this is where Jindal reaches peak offensive. He writes:
Let’s get really politically incorrect here and talk about this horror in Oregon. This killer’s father is now lecturing us on the need for gun control and he says he has no idea how or where his son got the guns. Of course he doesn’t know. You know why he doesn’t know? Because he is not, and has not been in his son’s life. He’s a complete failure as a father, he should be embarrassed to even show his face in public. He’s the problem here...He should be ashamed of himself, and he owes us all an apology.
So that’s it. The problem here isn’t the shooter himself or the absurdly easy access to firearms or the non-existent mental health system or the NRA or even negligent Oregon sheriffs who refuse to enforce existing law, it’s just this guy’s dad, who wasn’t around enough to prevent this kind of thing from happening.
I’ve no interest in defending the father here – that’s beside the overarching point. What’s maddening is Jindal’s context-free assertion that a tragedy like this is as simple as one son and one father, despite having just rambled triumphantly about a broader “cultural decay.” And that it’s “the shallow and simpleminded liberals” who “continue to blame pieces of hardware for the problem.” This idea that guns are just another piece of “hardware” is positively insane. Guns exist to kill people, and for no other reason – they’re not comparable to cars or computers. Besides, this is a red herring. The argument isn't that guns are responsible for shootings; it's that guns are an instrument of death (and a uniquely efficient one at that) and ought to be controlled as much as possible for that reason.
It takes an extraordinary act of will to convince yourself, as Jindal and Ben Carson have, that America’s mass shooting crisis, which is truly an American problem, has nothing to do with guns. It’s clear that culture and laws and media sensationalism and a host of other factors matter, but so do guns. Jindal says this isn’t as “complicated as we pretend,” but that’s precisely what it is. He wants to draw a line between the gun and the person, the culture and the laws, but these are false distinctions – you can’t divorce one from the other, at least not in the way Jindal does.
We’ll never be rid of deranged people or absent fathers or broken homes. We have to deal with these realities as best we can, but we can do that while making guns harder to get and easier to control. But this is a conversation we can’t have because people like Jindal would rather attack a grieving father whose son just killed himself and nine others than talk honestly about America’s gun problem.