Legend has it an apple falling on the head of young Isaac Newton (1643–1727) lead to his theories on gravity and the physics of objects in motion; most specifically to his third law, which postulates that, “For every action (of a physical body), there is no more and no less of an equal reaction.”

Gravity started the apple’s motion and quickly Newton’s head suffered the equal reaction … and maybe a headache.

Thanks to Newton, the relative motions of physical objects, from the Earth orbiting the sun to a pencil falling from your desk, are well-understood. Actions and reactions in our social world, however, are not so well-understood.

Even Newton admitted, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people.”

Reactions by humans may come in more force and intensity than the original actions. Smile and the world smiles with you, right? Intense reactions happen in politics too.

Frustrated by school shootings, including Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, CT, in December 2012, President Obama repeatedly lashed out at the National Rifle Association and the gun lobby in general. He claimed that his executive orders on background checks were “not part of a plot to take away everybody’s guns.” Fair enough.

Obama acted, and gun enthusiast reacted —­­ in the marketplace. By 2016 guns sales more than doubled to 15.6 million. Dealers sold out of popular models and calibers. Stories of ammunition hording were common. Several gun dealers quipped that, “Obama was the best gun salesman ever.” Now there are more guns than people in America.

With President Obama out of office, gun sales declined 11 percent in 2017 and another 6 percent in 2018.

Now it’s President Trump’s turn for a vigorous reaction from immigrants — and Democrats.

In what many viewed as anti-immigrant rhetoric during and after the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to build a wall along our Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants out. He even promised that Mexico would pay for the construction! Nancy Pelosi reacted with a promise of “not a penny for the wall,” and appeared to side with an open border policy that all but invites immigrants in.

Presidential proclamations have consequences — worldwide. Would-be immigrants from many countries are streaming to our southwest border in droves. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 144,278 apprehensions or denial of entries last month. That’s up from 51,862 last May and 19,966 in May 2017. Immigrants seeking entry during the first five months of 2019 number 30 percent more than for all of 2018. They want to get to the United States while they still can. Chaos reigns!

Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security in the Obama Administration, has emphatically stated that there is a crisis at the border even while other Democrats are in denial. I agree with Johnson.

Presidents should quietly work with Congress and within their administrations for solutions to our nation’s challenges. Gun violence and illegal immigration are certainly among them.

Instead, it seems, recent presidents can’t help themselves. The usefulness of these issues to ignite political passion and generate campaign cash is just too seductive. To politicians, the issues are more important than the solutions. Both sides are complicit.

There was a time, long ago, when politicians could quietly study issues and work on solutions. Now, the 24-hour news cycle, television “news” and the growing dominance of social media make that nearly impossible.

Regrettably, I don’t see how we put the genie back in the bottle.

As with Newton, we cannot calculate the madness.


George Schneidermann lives in Rock Rapids. He may be reached at g.schneidermann@iowainformation.com.