Opinion: We need to be pragmatic about tragedy

Only in times of trauma and suffering are people truly open to dynamic change. Blood has always fueled political revolutions, as well as major shifts in policy. German philosopher Hegel conveyed this best when he described history itself as a “slaughter bench.” Progress and positive change don’t occur when times are relatively tolerable. Some changes are necessary, and should be fought for, even if the timing seems tasteless.

With recent mass shootings, such as the one in Las Vegas, discussions of new gun control policies have reared their head again— and that should be viewed as beneficial. When the danger of random shootings is not present — not clearly visible or visceral — calls to action in regards to tightening gun control never seem to find traction.

Matthew Bone, an undergraduate in the politics, philosophy and economics program at UW Tacoma, summed this dilemma up, stating:
“Stand on gravestones. It’s a lot higher than standing on the soapbox.”

Using fear as a motivator, we have a better chance of ensuring that these violent occurrences lessen over time. Otherwise, if discourse simply remains stagnant, we are left in exactly the place in which we began. For example, the U.N. would never have been founded had politicians not exploited the horrors of the Holocaust in order to justify forming an international body. Did they take advantage of the suffering that the Jewish people underwent? Definitely. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t make the right move. They did not cheapen the tragedy, but rather, used it to try to bring about a positive change in the hopes of preventing future world wars or genocides.

Tragedies should be acknowledged, but honoring the dead is not purely an act of silent, solemn mourning. Often, political movement must accompany it, even in the form of ruthless action. With surgical precision and unrelenting force, the dead can be honored through political operations which enforce new protective measures, rather than irresolute idleness. We may remember people for who they were, but that is largely comprised of what they did. In that same fashion, we should honor them with action. Instead of fraudulent niceties and cliché platitudes, we should cut through the linguistic masks politicians tend to hide behind and approach these tragedies with the seriousness they deserve.


Lucas Waggoner

Lucas is a PPE major in University of Washington Tacoma, and he is graduating with a Bachelor's in philosophy. His primary interests are philosophy, politics, and law. He is currently working as a teacher at a secondary school while preparing to attend law school immediately following graduation.