A few days ago, in Tucson, Arizona, a young man went out to buy a gun. He was a disturbed young man, someone who scared the people around him. But he got his gun, a Glock machine pistol, a brutally effective rapid-firing semi-automatic widely used by American police forces.
No one asked about his mental health or his intentions.
"This is America," said - or thought - the salesman, "he is entitled to carry arms."
A few days later, he went to the local mall and shot a politician, a member of Congress, called Gabrielle Giffords. The bullet traversed her skull but did not kill her.
Then he turned his gun at random on the people around him, shooting a judge, a nine year old girl and many others.
In hospital, yesterday, Gabrielle Giffords opened her eyes and moved her arm again. She is not dead but will probably never live a normal life again.
Barack Obama spoke about this outrage the other day.
It was, by all accounts, a great speech. Even a Fox TV commentator called Glenn Beck congratulated him. Beck is rabidly opposed to Obama and what he stands for.
In his speech, the President talked about the lives of those who had died and of those who were injured by the gunman.
He talked about the heroism of the passers by who had disarmed and subdued the gunman.
Above all, thinking, perhaps, of his own young daughters, he talked about the nine year old girl who died, Christina Green. This is what he said:
"In Christina we see all of our children. So curious, so trusting, so energetic and full of magic. Christina was given to us on 11 September 2001, one of 50 babies born that day to be pictured in a book called Faces of Hope."
"On either side of her photo in that book were simple wishes for a child's life. 'I hope you help those in need,' read one. 'I hope you know all of the words to the national anthem and sing it with your hand over our heart. I hope you jump in rain puddles.'"
"If there are rain puddles in heaven, Christina is jumping in them today."
His words move me to tears.
I hope his words will also move Americans to take actions against the bilious hatred which has dishonoured their political discourse in recent months and the naked racism which has helped to fuel the disrespect which some Americans have shown to their properly elected leader, Barack Hussein Obama.
America, as a country and as a society, is a mass of contradictions. It can throw up political and spiritual greatness more often than Britain. But it sometimes wallows with relish in its own ignorance, spite and bile.
Yet the idealism of the founding fathers is still available and their spirit can invoked to refresh the libertarian impulses to which America was originally dedicated.
I cannot remember when I heard a British politician make a speech that either inspired me or moved me.
What a disappointing country mine has become when great events (and there have been great events in my lifetime) produce no tears, no ideals and little or no hope for the young.