“Now is not the time”: a deadly mantra

Donald Trump says we’ll address gun laws “as time goes on,” parroting the conservative mantra after every mass shooting: now is not the time. The same rule applies to any mention of climate change after a freak storm.

As a society, we make rule choices; we ordain rights, duties, and prohibitions and mete out guilt and liability. We do so by discerning the behaviors and principles that produce good outcomes.

The rule propounded by the right – that we may not discuss the causes of a weapons or weather crisis until that crisis passes – is as clever as it is harmful. Americans have a stilted attention span, so we won’t address anything that isn’t happening now.

Knowing this, conservatives have built a paradigm where gun violence and climate change never get discussed. We seesaw endlessly between “now is the time for thoughts and prayers” and “it’s time to move on.”

Climate change is science, and gun violence is a public-health issue amenable to empirical study. Nobody would say, “Now is not the time for science and empiricism,” so conservatives have made science and empiricism subjects for political debate rather than rational inquiry. The result presently defines us: studied ignorance.