I recently came across a quote from Romain Gary: "The Americans cannot tolerate the idea of a problem without a solution." This explains much about us and exemplifies our national character as well as anything might. As with many things, it can be a strength and it can be a weakness. Problems, as they may be defined, may or may not have a solution. It begins with the definition of a problem and this varies from person to person. What is a problem for one person may not be a problem for another. If we see a problem we try to fix it, but I do not think this is limited to Americans. It is a human trait. Gary is correct, however, when he infers that Americans seem obsessed with the idea that anything defined as a problem has a solution and that solution will be imposed.
Unfortunately, every solution creates a problem for someone. Solutions to problems create problems. We learn today what the President proposes as a solution to the incident at Newtown. Whatever that may be, it will create problems for some. We have dealt with crime in this fashion since America was founded. We are determined to stop crime or, at least, minimize it. Regardless of these efforts, there will always be crime. For one reason, crime is simply what the legislature wants it to be. Secondly, it is a statistical certainty that there will be burglaries, robberies, sexual assaults, murders, thefts, ad infinitum. These activities will never disappear from the planet. They have always occurred and will always occur. There are those among us who will commit what we all consider to be criminal acts. There is no solution. This fact, that there is no solution, escapes the legislature as well as law enforcement.
This is no reason not to prosecute those committing crimes, but the acknowledgement of the fact that there is no solution would effect the thinking of those who make the laws and those who enforce them. Rather than increasing continually penalties for crime in order to stop crime, penalties might return to a reasonable level. It makes no sense and is in fact cruel, ineffectual, and wasteful to place our citizens in prison for as long as life for making, using, and selling controlled substances. It is clear that there have been, are, and always will be those who use illegal substances. Maybe we should declare it a non-problem and cease attempting to solve it.