Another day, another crazy person shooting people in a public place, another blame game starts almost immediately. But first politicians drag out the clichéd and hollow statement about “keeping the victims in our prayers.” The shock of this most recent shooting, we think, had to have been great — these were their friends and colleagues, after all, not some strangers in a gay nightclub! They were playing the all-American pastime, baseball, and practicing for that famous bipartisan Congressional baseball game at National Stadium. But no. As soon as the shock of actually knowing a victim of gun violence wore off, they reverted back to their hyper-partisan behavior. Once the verbal niceties were over, the verbal nasties returned. We all should agree that the politicization of mass shootings is despicable. Yet we see it happen with every mass shooting: first “thoughts and prayers,” then attacks.
Such reactions are a byproduct of the extreme partisanship that has its roots in the 1994 GOP takeover of the Congress — and Rep. Newt Gingrich’s infamous Contract
on for America, most of which — since Gingrich never had an original thought in his head — originated with The Heritage Foundation, a ultra-right-wing conservative think tank. The roots of extreme partisanship on the left is easily blamed on the right. That said, viciously attacking your opponent is not solely a GOP default: Democrats know how to turn tragedy to their advantage, too — like when Bernie Sanders was pilloried, and rightly so, for sending out a fundraising letter after the shooting of Rep.Gabby Giffords. The first sentences of his letter briefly acknowledge the shooting while focusing squarely on his then-reelection campaign.
Given the recent tragedy in Arizona, as well as the start of the new Congress, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few words with political friends in Vermont and throughout the country. I also want to thank the very many supporters who have begun contributing online to my 2012 reelection campaign at www.bernie.org.
Unabashed. Disgraceful. Typical.
Last week, Colorado General Assembly State Minority Leader, Patrick Neville, a Republican, sent an equally unabashed, disgraceful and typical fundraising letter asking for donations as he pointed fingers at unnamed liberal bogeymen.
And then there’s a request for a donation.
Remember this ad created by the progressive group The Agenda Project depicting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan pushing grandma off a cliff?
Politicians who immediately point fingers at violent speech are the usually those committing violent speech. The irony is not lost on most people.
The one thing Rep. Neville and I agree on as that this is un-American and it has to stop. Mass shootings and the mentally unstable men who are the shooters (side note: 98% of mass shooters are men) are not typically carrying out some politically motivated statement. Even if they were, it is a dangerous and irresponsible game to paint all Democrats or Republicans with the same brush. The finger-pointing and accusations of violent rhetoric should instead be pointed directly at the National Rifle Association where it properly belongs. Granted, the GOP has done the NRA’s bidding for far too long; they’re scared to lose out on putting their hands in the NRA’s miles-deep pockets. But have the Democrats done enough to keep guns out of the hands of those who should never have access to firearms.
President Obama expanded gun rights for Americans. In direct contrast to the hysteria presented by the right-wing during the 2008 election (he’s coming for yer guns!), he signed a law allowing gun owners to bring their loaded weapons into National Parks, including Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. He agreed that commuters on Amtrak should be allowed to get drunk in the bar car while carrying their loaded gun. That was courtesy of the Wicker amendment, named for Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, that was attached to a must-pass budget bill in 2010. It stated that Amtrak would lose funds if it did not comply with those drunk, loaded gun-toting Amtrak commuters. Instead of standing up to fiduciary and moral hostage taking, the Senate voted yes and Obama signed it.
Mass shootings are so common that the mainstream media doesn’t even report on the vast majority of them. As of this writing, according to the 2017 Mass Shootings Tracker, 1,029 people have been shot in 211 incidents. How many have you heard about? Maybe one or two?
All this must stop. The extreme left wing and the extreme right wing are both to blame. The name calling, the demonizing, the violent rhetoric has to cease. The growing divide between two vastly different ideological camps started during the Clinton campaign with the Whitewater “investigation” and the take-no-prisoners type of campaigning we have seen over the last 20 years. This ugly approach has been perfected by our current President and used against his long list of enemies, perceived or imagined, including
- The FBI, CIA, DIA, NSA, DOJ, IRS and the entire alphabet.
- All News except Fox and Friends.
- Rod Rosenstein.
- Jeff Sessions (because he recused himself).
- Any cabinet member who did not lavish him with praise.
- Robert Mueller and James Comey.
- Everyone who disagrees with him.
- The entire continent of Europe.
- North Korea.
The violent language used by candidate Trump on the campaign trail normalized actions that at any other time would have sent him back to his gold tower, never to be taken seriously again. But these are not normal times. The left and right must take responsibility for words. Can gunmen be swayed by words? Alex Jones’ insane Pizzagate conspiracy theory caused a man to take an assault rifle to a DC pizza parlor, convinced that Hillary Clinton’s people ran a kiddie sex ring in the basement. Words matter. The more we allow our society to sink into two camps that are never allowed to have polite discourse without calling out the Libtards, Republicunts and Snowflakes, the more I fear we will see shootings become the political fuel that burns down our democracy.