In April, I spoke about the feedback loops that have infected American politics. “It seems like this is our modality now,” I said. “Each side has their talking points and neither’s allowed to stray, lest they end up in the land of RINOs and DINOs. We now operate in a binary where our only choice is futilely berating each other or desperate silence… At a certain point, you’ve repeated the same words so many times that they cease to have meaning. We find ourselves trapped in an ongoing dialogue where no one’s listening, but they don’t want to lose, so we make sound but say nothing.”
On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, House Majority WhipSteve Scalise (R-LA) was shot while practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game.
The shooting took place three days ago, and I still haven’t written anything about it. Of course, any time the words “congress” and “baseball” appear in the same story, that’s pretty much entirely within our purview at Politicus Sports. If you were trying to define our wheelhouse, I would say this is a textbook example; yet, I find myself in the strange position of not particularly wanting to write about it.
I’ve been troubled by that, and I’ve been trying to figure out “why?”
While there is, to some degree, the incentive of not wanting to politicizing a tragedy, that’s not the primary reason for my reticence. The primary reason I’m having trouble writing a response is that I’m not sure there’s anything new for me to say…
I’ve lived in a country plagued by political violence and also I’ve seen firsthand the lingering effects that gun violence can have on a community and I wish neither on anyone. That’s why I want to pick my words here very carefully.
As The New York Times reported on Friday: “for the first time since it began asking the question in 1992, the Pew Research Center reported a majority of Democrats and Republicans said they held “very unfavorable” views of the opposing party”.
That is the real issue at hand and, as a political blogger, I’ve play some part in it. In the media and the political arena, we have demonized each other to get an edge. And, if this shooting is any indication, the left has become just as guilty of this as anyone else.
The man who pulled the trigger on Wednesday was not a jihadist, or a disturbed teenager, or wingnut living out of a shack in the woods: it was a politically active member of the Democratic Party who previously campaigned for Bernie Sanders.
It seems that this shooting is a direct result of the polarizing and divisive brand of politics we’ve begun to play in the United States. This is the slippery slope we throw ourselves down every time we paint with the brush of “us” and “them”. We have created a culture war, and it is malignant and it is contagious and it is obvious. I see it daily in the hateful comments and the paranoid emails I receive from people on both ends of the spectrum; yet we tend to excuse those who land closer to our particular belief system.
Sure, it’s easy enough to point out the irony in Scalise’s pro-gun agenda. It’s easy to grab headlines with the fact that the police officer who protected Scalise, a man who pushed anti-gay legislation, voted to limited women’s access to healthcare and spoke at a conference for White Supremacists, was a gay, black female. These are obvious points, but to me the only truly meaningful part is that Officer Crystal Griner most likely saw none of those labels when she rushed to the Congressman’s aid.
Well here we are with more sounds that say nothing; sounds like gunshots and screams. And what is that value of all this? There was nothing righteous in this shooter’s actions. That bullet didn’t bring back your healthcare or recount the votes. If anything, the shooting showed how equal all ideologies can be when it comes to perpetrating evil.
It is time we took responsibility for the part we all play in this tragedy. It’s time we began to look at our hot takes (headlines like “Bigoted Homophobe Steve Scalise’s Life Was Saved by a Queer Black Woman” or “New York Times Lies About Gun Laws To Excuse Leftist Violence“) and realize that maybe we started this fire.
As of earlier today, doctors say Rep. Scalise has a good chance of recovery. Also, if anyone cares, the Democrats won the annual congressional baseball game on Thursday. The final score was 11 to 2.
[Photo via Flickr user Zennie Abraham]