On Wednesday, as most know, a man who belonged to multiple anti-Republican groups, including one called “Terminate the Republican Party,” opened fire on Republican lawmakers, who were practicing for a charity softball game.
Let’s start here. Let’s start by omitting the words “Republican” and “Democrat,” for if any believe that only the Republicans or only the Democrats are contributing to the reckless rhetorical climate, than they — we — are more part of the problem than we think. What are we doing?
The Intramuralist believes we need to be clear in how we speak of this. It is not the rhetoric or a Facebook group or another association that is responsible for the violent acts; the people who choose the violent acts are the people responsible for the violent acts. However, we are contributing to a climate which makes the violent acts more likely; we are feeding a culture that encourages the equating of ideological difference holders to enemies; sometimes our elected leaders have even referred to political others as the “enemy.” That is the basis for today’s question. By definition, an “enemy” is seen as bad. Wrong. And sometimes even necessary to shoot and kill. We are contributing to an unhealthy, morally-digressing climate that encourages some to shoot and kill.
One of the things I appreciate after the resulting shock and pause of horrific events, is the positive use of “we”… “We are all Americans” after 9/11… “We are Orlando” after the Pulse night club shootings…. And “we are all sons and daughters of God” — a frequent, articulated truth that is perhaps the only “we,” we actually always are. In the wake of tragedy, no less, we turn the “me” into a “we” — focusing most on what we have in common. There is no assertion that the “other” is the “enemy.”
But with all due respect, save for in the wake of those horrific events, my sense is we currently, collectively stink at that. We stink at including others in our “we.” We tend to focus most on what we don’t have in common, as opposed to what we do. We pit our values, belief systems, identities, etc. against someone or something else. We pick teams, separate groups, and create intentional division. We utilize terms such as “resistance,” “war” and “destroy” — terms each partisan group takes turns embracing… sometimes shouting.
As former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) said this week, “Angry, divisive words are setting the stage for the unhinged to act out.” The reality is that our leaders and “we” are the ones using those angry, divisive words.
How many call now — or called before — for either Donald Trump or Barack Obama to be destroyed?
And how many justify it? … maybe, most likely, only for one?
Again, this week’s shooter is responsible for this week’s shooting. But we have created a climate in which a person lacking in wisdom or discernment feels like “destroy” actually means “to destroy.” The softball field shooter went to do exactly that.
While there is nothing wrong with respectful, passionate opposition, we have been seduced as a society into believing that it’s ok for policy attacks to become personal. We have been fooled into believing that another’s policy differences equate that person with idiocy or evil.
And then we fight.
The man at the softball field went to fight.
Will we come together to recognize that we really are all Americans?
Will we stop this reckless rhetoric that encourages hate towards someone?
Will our leaders courageously lead, stopping the call to resist and destroy, even though the firm stance tends to rile up the people (and secure more future votes)? Will we stop attacking the person — especially, referring to them as the “enemy”?
And — perhaps the bottom line question for today — will we embrace wisdom first and foremost — or will we continue to be seduced into something lesser?
Back to Sen. Bayh… “Let’s hear more reconciliation in our political debate. Let’s rethink our propensity to make every disagreement apocalyptic. Let’s resist the temptation to infer the worst motives to our adversaries. In the end, the American values that unite us are much stronger than those tearing us apart. Let’s remember that.”
Yes… let’s remember.
What are we doing, friends?