On 2 October, President Obama declared: "Here's what you need to do: You have to make sure that anybody that you are voting for is on the right side of this issue." If politicians oppose these measures, he continued, "even if they're great on other stuff, you've got to vote against them." He was talking about gun control.
This is a first in American history. While president Lincoln focused the full measure of the last half of his second term on the passing of the 13th Amendment, he at no time let his single focus diminish the broad focus of the American people on other issues. Obama's proclamation is startling to say the least.
George Orwell, in his novel of the ultimate dystopian future (1984), describes a world in which intelligence and creativity are eradicated from the minds of the populace by narrowing language and all other avenues of thought. The ultimate goal of the government, which was ruled by Big Brother, was to reduce all language to one word, and all thought to one concept – the concept of love for Big Brother. "Thoughtcrime" was a capital offence against Big Brother.
EMP attack on electronic infrastructure
My first thought upon hearing Obama's proclamation was that I was in the middle of an acid flashback and I had no benzodiazepines to mediate the trip. My second thought was: what possible single issue, in this complex society of ours, would merit a "single issue" status?
I assumed that the single issue would be the tragic issue of our national security. This issue would clearly be the rampant illiteracy of our elected leaders in the science of cyber security. Experts agree that an all out cyber attack, beginning with an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack on our electronic infrastructure, would wipe out 90% of the human population of this country within two years of the attack. That means the death of 270 million people within 24 months after the attack.
Yet our leaders are nearly all ill prepared for this near certain, not-too-distant event. If I were forced to choose a single issue, this would obviously be the issue.
Imagine my shock and horror when I discovered that the single issue is gun control. Frantically searching again for my benzodiazepines, and certain that rabid squirrels would imminently emerge from my wristwatch and form a tribunal accusing me of crimes against humanity, a saving thought flashed into my mind: What if the president is right? Could this simplification be the salvation of this long-suffering nation?
US mass murders prior to 1980
I put on my thinking cap. The impetus for most proclamations surrounding gun control are generally mass murders, some involving guns. As a competent scientist, I needed to know when mass murders became an issue in this country that I have loved for more than 70 years. A little research will uncover the little known fact that mass murders, prior to 1980, were virtually unknown.
This fact disturbed me, since guns have been prominently owned in this society since the founding of our country, and there was no sweeping legislation in 1980, or after, that radically changed gun ownership laws or rates of gun ownership. This, to a scientist, without qualification, removes guns as the source of our problem, unless, of course, guns suddenly achieved the ability to subconsciously tempt their owners to use them in heretofore-unknown ways. If not, then the problem appears to be an increase in violent urgings, stemming from some unknown source deep within the fabric of our society.
What could this source be? There are many possibilities. In the 1980s we saw the first wide scale use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (antidepressants), such as Prozac, Paxil and others. Hundreds of studies have shown that these antidepressants have side effects that include violent thoughts. A few minutes of research will tell us that 8% of the US population is taking antidepressants, yet a known 30% of all mass murderers since 1980 were taking antidepressants, and it is highly suspected that the real number approaches 90% – a statistical anomaly of egregious proportions.
Presidential acid flashback?
But it is much easier to disprove a cause (as we did with guns above) than it is to prove a cause. The antidepressants may merely be an artifact of some deeper cause that is as yet unknown. We do know that governments that turn deceptive and begin spying on their citizens foment unrest, anger and despair. However, given that we do not have citizens carrying signs in the streets and recalling their representatives en masse – outward signs that we would expect from a citizenry that is not afraid of their government, then perhaps that has not happened here in America.
I am left with only one statistic: Since 1982, the Democrat/Republican ratio has been fairly evenly split, measured in terms of years in power. Yet 85% of all mass shootings have happened while Democrats were on watch. This again may be simply an artefact of something deeper, but it bears looking into.
In any case, the President's proposal – that we abandon the complex process of weighing the near infinite issues that are important to us, and to choose a single issue upon which we can direct the entire future of our society, may well, in the confusion of my simple mind, be the Holy Grail of politics. But if it is then surely weighing the possible deaths of 90% of our citizens due to cyber warfare against gun violence which causes fewer deaths per year than traffic accidents, seems that possibly our president is suffering an acid flashback rather than myself.