As the dust settles on last week’s shooting at a practice field where congressional Republicans were preparing for a charity baseball game, I’ve been seeing something that frankly terrifies me—tone-deaf finger-pointing. At a time like this, we should be joining hands, not pointing fingers.
As I’ve said many times before, party should not matter. It’s the person, not the party, who is chiefly responsible for acts such as the shooting last week, or the Planned Parenthood shooting in 2015, or any other attack you want to drag out (Charleston, Portland, Orlando …). Rhetoric can contribute to such an action, but the person who carries it out is ultimately to blame.
E.J. Dionne Jr. of the Washington Post wrote Sunday of the gracious responses of Paul Ryan and Nancy Pelosi to the Alexandria shooting, both speaking “in a spirit of thoughtful solidarity and genuinely mutual concern.” That moment, though, has been lost in the rancor between the parties which, he says, resulted from “the steady destruction of the norms of partisan competition that began more than a quarter-century ago.”
He cited a speech by Newt Gingrich to College Republicans in Georgia in 1978 as indicative of the breakdown of bipartisanship, and though he speaks specifically of Republicans, I think it just as well could apply to Democrats: “I think that one of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty. We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal and faithful and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around the campfire, but are lousy in politics.”
Great to know that being nasty is considered a plus in politics. And people wonder why each side paints the other as the root of all evil.
Dionne concluded: “John F. Kennedy once spoke of how ‘a beachhead of cooperation’ might ‘push back the jungle of suspicion.’ So let us begin with that Ryan-Pelosi moment. We can at least agree that political violence is unacceptable and that each side should avoid blaming the other for the deranged people in their ranks who act otherwise. Things have gotten so intractable that even this would be progress.”
Not every violent act has a political impetus, and neither party is innocent of hateful rhetoric, so blaming a party for threats against politicians is not productive, and will likely result in the other side bringing up threats against their people. (Oh, Kathy Griffin, killing Trump in a play, and congressional ball players? What about Ted Nugent, killing Obama in a play, and Gabby Giffords? Huh, huh? Yep … really productive.)
Dr. Russell Palarea, an operational psychologist who specializes in threat assessment, told Mother Jones: “Our country has become more polarized and tensions are running high, but we all need to hold our biases and judgments in check. The perpetrator’s motive and targeting may have been based in a political theme, but it’s important to take a holistic view of his patterns of behavior, life stressors, violence history, and preparation to conduct this attack. We can’t just make a broad-brush conclusion about politics being what drove it.”
For example, the gunman in this case had something in common with many recent mass shooters: a history of aggression and violence toward women. Nancy Leong, an associate professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, wrote in the Washington Post:
One analysis of mass shootings from 2009 through 2016 concluded that at least 54 percent of mass shootings — or 85 out of 156 incidents — involved a current or former intimate partner or family member as a victim. Other research has found that those who abuse their domestic partners are also more likely to abuse children and animals, and that 68 percent of men in a sample of batterers exhibited other “problem behaviors,” such as fights, previous arrests or drunken driving.
… Mass shootings are terrible tragedies, no matter what contributes to them. And it’s certainly important to consider all the factors that could go into preventing them. The available evidence indicates that one of the first things we should do is start taking domestic violence seriously.
So maybe we should think a little before spouting off about “Demoncrats” or “Rethuglicans.” Maybe we should wait for facts to emerge before assigning blame.
And maybe, just maybe, we can demonstrate humanity and simply hope for the best for those injured or killed in any attack such as this.
It’s a shame that we can’t be as gracious with each other over politics as we can over animals. The absence of sniping (even from people who usually fall over themselves to do so) in the comments on my column on the newspaper’s website last week about my furry one’s death was heartening, and gave me some hope for civilized conversation. Let’s keep that spirit up, please.
To those of you who have reached out to me since last Wednesday: Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, letters, cards and calls. They made me laugh and they made me cry (still do). Most importantly, they helped get me through a tough week.
The boy will always be in my heart, and I’m proud to know that he is in some of yours as well.
Well, now that I’ve possibly gotten your blood pressure up a little bit, why not channel that into a letter to the editor?
We’re in a summer slump (which happens just about any time a lot of people are out on vacation), and the Fourth of July is swiftly coming up, so we need your letters.
Remember, try to keep letters under 300 words, keep it clean and civil, and if you cite a statement of fact, it may take a little longer to process (which is why I love people who include their sources). We won’t be able to acknowledge or print everything we get (never have been able, to my knowledge), but we’ll do our best to print as many as we can.
Have a favorite memory of Independence Day or of summertime activities? Have something stuck in your craw? Have a compliment you want to pass on? Write it up and send it in through the Web form, by email at voices@arkansasonline, by fax at (501) 372-4765, or by snail mail at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203 (make sure to include Voices in the address). And please, please, make sure to include contact information, such as a phone number or email address.
If you only knew how many letters get tossed because of that …
Though I have a lot of Twitter burns to catch up on, I have a medical test Wednesday morning that is necessitating a slight change to my plans. I’ll post an all-burn post by Thursday morning, quite possibly with some unhinged reactions from the Georgia 6th District race. I’m fairly sure Trumpy’s gonna find that phone again. Till then, I leave you with this.