Tikkun Olam or The Stuff That Should Not Happen

I was profoundly distressed to hear how flippantly Gov. Jed Bush’s dismissed concerns about the tragic shooting of nine people Thursday at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon:

I resist the notion, and I did — I had this challenge as governor. Because, we have — look. Stuff happens. There’s always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something and it’s not always the right thing to do.

A child drowned in a pool and the impulse is to pass a law that puts fencing around pools. Well it may not change it. Or you have a car accident and the impulse is to pass a law that deals with that unique event. And the cumulative effect of this is, in some cases, you don’t solve the problem by passing the law, and you’re imposing on large numbers of people burdens that make it harder for our economy to grow, make it harder to protect liberty.

Asked for a clarification, the Presidential candidate doubled-down.

No. It wasn’t a mistake. I said exactly what I said…. Explain to me what I said wrong…. Things happen all the time. “Things” is that better.

Having worked for the past three years in traffic safety, I refuse to settle for the laissez-faire philosophy of “Stuff happens”. This attitude is not appropriate for anyone, let alone a candidate to the highest office.

If an aircraft crashes, would we tolerate a “Stuff happens’ from the FAA officials?

Typically an investigation takes place and remedial steps are put in place to prevent the same type of accident from happening again. Airplanes crashes are now extremely rare.

In the words of Stephen Colbert.

One of the definitions of insanity is changing nothing and pretending something will change.

110404-fatality-rate-per-100-million-vehicle-miles-traveledLet us take traffic fatalities as an example, my current area of research. Improvement in safety is usually measured by the number of deaths per 100 million vehicle miles. This rate was dramatically cut through the years from 24.1 to 1.1 between 1921 and 2010. These results were the direct outcome of improved technology (seat belt, airbag, active safety), improved education, and changed behaviors. When child injury researchers observed children deaths that were caused by the airbag deployment, she took on the airbag manufacturers to improve both technology and legislation. Airbags are now safer for everyone. Of course, crashes still happen, we lose over 30,000 people every year but my colleagues and I work hard towards safer roads. Emergency Braking and driverless cars will hopefully bring us closer to the “Vision Zero” when no one dies on the road.

Coincidentally, deaths by guns will surpass car fatalities this year, and we are due for change.

So I believe it is important for everyone to live with the Jewish idea of tikkun olam in mind (repairing the world). Parents should be responsible for the emotional well-being of their children. Teachers, classmates and co-workers can sometimes observe distress and help. Legislators are in the front line as well and we need to hold them responsible if they do nothing to help us prevent the next massacre. Simple steps like background checks or anti-straw purchase legislation would do much to stanch the needless loss of life and limb.

As hard as it is to set change in motion, we cannot and should not become insensitive to “stuff”.

We cannot and should not feel powerless.