"Is it not perverse that we are united as one nation only when a national political figure is shot?
As horrible as this shooting was, any such unity is thin and fleeting." Letter writer Peter Munger, in response to Denver Post editorial: After Alexandria shooting, a reminder that we can still come together
Well, it wasn't long before the mass shooter of four people yesterday in Alexandria, VA was identified as a homeless man and likely disturbed Lefty named James T. Hodgkinson. Hodgkinson, wearing jeans and a blue shirt, was wielding a rifle from behind a chain-link fence near third base. By most estimates, he fired at least 50 rounds, the bullets kicking up earth and gravel. Pandemonium erupted as exposed GOP House members and aides dove into a dugout for cover, then raced into the dog park or jumped over a fence and ran for their lives.
When it was all over, House GOP Whip Steve Scalise lay critically wounded, and remains in that condition. And no sooner had the day ended than Right wing talking heads - including Newt Gingrich and Chris Collins, were yakking it up that it was all on the "Left" for its "extremist" rhetoric and "hyper partisan" behavior including yelling at reps in Town Halls. Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan - numero uno guy who plans to gut health care for millions - gave his best performance of how we "are united in our shock, we are united in our anguish" and need to come together since "an attack on one is an attack on all". Stirring words, Paul, but what are you going to DO to prove you mean them, and also that your policies won't wreck the lives of millions?
At this point, serious critical minds have got to step in and call bullshit on a lot of this empty, feel good palaver. We are going to debate for the next year or so the genesis of this attack and who was responsible, but let's cut to the chase very fast and say a lot of elements - especially in the Trump domain - share much of the blame. Rather than 'come together' as Trump first semi-advocated after the Nov. 8 election win, he's constantly sought to govern only on behalf of his looney, fake news followers while ignoring the 52 percent of the nation that never voted for him.
He's even openly admitted he's there only for "his people" so why the hell should anyone be surprised at the "hyper partisan" atmosphere engendered? Meanwhile, even as constitutional norms and laws have clearly been flouted, now seeing obstruction of justice on the table, Trump's Republican party has played the game of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" and buried its collective head in the sand. The party has placed itself over country in the Trump -Russia investigation, and refuses to even concede Trump has done any wrong. In effect, making a "deal with the Devil" and pretending such deal making can't have real world consequences, or if it does it ought to be ignored.
Then they talk, like Paul Ryan, as if this agenda and its derivative policies exist only in the abstract and won't tear asunder the lives of millions of citizens. The latter left without even basic health care if the Republicans' detestable AHCA goes through. And it's being done via stealth, in a final push behind Senate closed doors, because the Repukes are too ashamed to let citizens know the actual sordid details of how it will destroy their lives if enacted. Well, after yesterday's events, they have good reason to hide it! Look, if the bill was the least bit respectable and respected citizens, there'd be no need to keep it hidden.
What I am about is that words and actions via policy motivated legislation can also have consequences, which can be as brutal as bullets in the hip of a congress critter. When those parents who will be affected by repeal of Obamacare see their loved ones dying, including children of diseases like brain cancer, and leukemia, the "talk" policy aspect ceases and reality sets in. When people in 18 counties of Ohio, see their sons or daughters die of opioid overdoses because health care support funds - including for narcone- have been eliminated, it gets real. The point? Policies have serious real world repercussions and you can't just expect millions to put them in an isolated cubicle and not make connections to WHO is responsible.
Was it justified then for someone like Hodgkinson - a Bernie supporter- to let his emotions out in a blaze of targeted gunfire? Of course not! The guy was obviously at an extreme tipping point including that he was barely existing in a homeless condition and held a grievance with the Repukes for that, not too different from how millions of Trumpies hold their own grievances, say at James Comey ("He's a coward") or Obama.
What I am arguing here is that there is an entire matrix of responsibility for what occurred in Alexandria yesterday and to lay the blame entirely on one lone, crazed gunman is to miss the point, as well as to miss fixing what is wrong with this polarized nation. Truth be told, one of the most powerful memes driving what's transpired, including hatred - yes hatred - of Trump, harkens back to his own words and behavior. That includes when he openly bragged he "could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose voters." If a now sitting president could have actually said those words, effectively endorsing the most extreme potential actions, why be surprised some of the most unstable citizens might take them literally, to heart?
Let's also not forget his own enticement of violent behavior at his rallies, where he actually encouraged Trumpies to punch out protestors, and even go after the media. Ah, but too many 'Muricans have the memory of gnats so it's easy to forget all Trump's antics, even after just 6 or 8 months. But many of us haven't. Not because we're holding permanent grudges or "grievances" but because we wish to have a historical perspective capable of putting any current events into a larger context of cause and effect.
As to the current, post -incident outcries for "more civility", e.g. at Town halls, that depends on congressional representatives. THEY have to share responsibility for shout downs when they refuse to respect their constituents' voices and concerns, or frivolously dismiss them. Such as many people who expressed concern over losing their ACA benefits and seeing their children in agony - say from a terrible cancer- because they're deprived of the critical treatments they need.
DO the Repukes make the connection between harm from their vile policies and extreme reactions to them? I doubt it. But until they do the polarization and antipathy won't cease and we will continue to roll on toward an actual second Civil War. As I wrote before, you simply cannot sustain for long two large segments of a nation that operate in two different realms of news, belief, science acceptance, policy etc. Eventually, unless those two factions synthesize, they will come to blows, and we may well be seeing the first evidence of that, for example in the violent altercations between the Alt- Right and anti-fascists.
The likes of Gingrich and Collins blaming the "Left" without examining their party's own nefarious policies and the way they're conducting business outside the norms (e.g. allowing no hearings for passage of the AHCA in the Senate) is also not helping matters.
Finally, the litmus test to see if the Republicans are genuinely serious about changing things hinges on whether they now have the intestinal fortitude to unshackle from the NRA and enact serious gun legislation. Personally, I doubt they will, which means all their hand wringing and calls for change are basically hollow.
In the meantime, Trump talks a good con man's patter with his call for "unity" but as long as he continues his tweets which ridicule Comey, the FBI and law enforcement, as well as the media - he's merely belching empty noxious brain farts.