Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all agree that . . . .
No, scratch that, since we can’t all agree on anything. And “nice” is pretty much off the table when it comes to discussing matters of national import. “Vile” is much more apt, and I can’t see how the free-fire zone of contempt can be called a “discussion.”
So I’ll just toss this concept out there, a single idea hocked from the frontal lobes and spat into the enormous bruise green whirling cyclone that is Media 2017.
Wouldn’t it be, ah, useful, if we could all at least consider that the period — say the first three days — immediately after the mass shootings which increasing mar and define our country is not the ideal time to chew on matters of public policy?
Because really, what good does it do?
The drawback of that is once such shootings happen every day — we’re almost there now — then it’ll never be appropriate to debate each other rationally about our political problems. Which is sort of where we are now anyway, though in the immediate after-echo of a bloodletting we are even less capable of civil discourse than we usually are, which is really saying something.
The news hits.
There is a moment of stupid shock, gazing dumbly at whatever carnage has just occurred. And then the howl is raised again. Everybody talking, nobody listening.
Extremists who live to hate a particular group feel extra vindicated that their mean little biases have just been proved once again. On the opposite end of the spectrum, dewy dreamers who hope for impossible standards of warm political brotherhood announce that now is the moment when Americans who heretofore have been unmoved by endless mass slaughter will suddenly be jarred into unity. They warble a few strains of “Kumbaya” joined by hyper-partisans figuring they might as well make some placating noises before they go back to the fray.
The shooting of a congressman and four others at a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Virginia, wasn’t even the bloodiest shooting that took place in the United States that day, Wednesday, June 14. That would be the three people killed at a UPS facility in San Francisco, plus the shooter, who killed himself. But that barely registered because it could be dismissed as workplace violence, which for some reason doesn’t count. I suppose because it has scant rhetorical utility.
Not so for James T. Hodgkinson, of Belleville, who shot up a congressional baseball practice. An indignant Democrat, thus confirmation aplenty for people already aghast at the idea of their party being criticized. Readers rushed to share their insights.
“Your hate filled-columns spawned this tragedy you scum,” James Stricker wrote. “You have blood on your hands. Get out of my newspaper.”
“Direct result of media writers such as yourself,” wrote Bill Garrett. “Constant denigrating.”
“One of your guys, a lifelong Democrat tries to gun down Republicans,” wrote Gregg Soligo.
Some felt they had me cornered, and chuckled, almost gleeful, demanding I admit defeat now.
I was tempted to write back.
“Shooting? What shooting? Oh, you mean today’s clumsy false-flag operation by the Trump administration, obviously intended to distract the public from his crimes.”
But the irony of replying with an echo of Alex Jones’ Sandy Hook conspiracy lunacy would be lost. Anyone with enough perception to grasp the satire wouldn’t hold their opinions in the first place.
Had I replied, I would have said that I’m already on record explaining, time and again, that the irrational acts of one disturbed individual do not indict an entire group just because you don’t like them. A Muslim blowing himself up does not prove the blood-thirstiness of Islam, nor does a deranged Bernie Sanders supporter undercut Democrats, nor do Republican extremists who go on rampages tar the GOP. None of my right-wing readers demanded I react to that Oregon man who stabbed two good samaritans to death after they tried to stop his anti-Muslim rant. That could be easily shrugged off.
Still, readers were tapping their watch faces. “Waiting, waiting, waiting,” wrote one. Your wait is over.