The opening scene in Fiddler on the Roof features an animated argument among the people of Anatevka over whether a purchased animal is a horse or a mule.
“Horse!” shouts one group.
“Mule!” shouts another.
And that is the extent of their conversation. They just keep shouting.
Joseph Stein wrote that musical in 1964, but if you substitute a couple of words, that scene could take place in America today.
And everybody’s wrong.
This painful, frustrating, dangerous, ineffective shouting of words without listening happened immediately in the wake of the devastating school shooting in Uvalde (which followed a devastating mass shooting by an 18-year old at a grocery store).
“It’s not mental illness, it’s guns!” shouted one group.
“It’s not guns, it’s mental illness!” shouted another.
Clearly, it’s both.
So, why can’t we have a reasonable discussion that leads to our children still being alive at the end of a school day?
Why can’t our response be proactive?
I think, for instance, that mental health screenings should be a part of every well child physical. I think schools should screen incoming students for mental health issues the way they do for learning disabilities, speech and language issues, hearing and eyesight. Then, I think schools should have therapists on staff to treat these students.
So, we need to agree on more resources for our schools and, as I wrote about before, we need more mental health professionals.
I also think reasonable gun control measures would save lives. No 18-year old should be able to celebrate his birthday by buying himself an AR-15. All gun purchases should require a universal background check.
Why is this so controversial?
We can stop school shootings. Please, let’s not ever think we can’t.
But, we need to stop shouting about horses and mules and start talking sense.