2018

21 June 2017: This is our new normal

Once again, a too-common modern America tale. Something deranged Americans have in common with global terrorists: Violence to the point of death as the way to address one’s anger. One wonders whether such proclivity results from one snapping or a slow-brewing process fueled by an inner, brooding, deep-seated anger. Does it matter? The outcome is the same.

It’s not likely Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and I would agree on much politically, socially, or religiously, yet I am sending him and the other victims of James Hodgkinson’s shooting rampage healing energies for their full recoveries. Senator Bernie Sanders summed up the act in one word: despicable. I add cowardly.

For years, I have argued we need to pay more attention to those with anger issues who are not “certifiable,” would not be diagnosed with mental illness, having access to guns. Perhaps, there is no answer. The Second Amendment debate has pretty much been settled, at least for now. Other than a tweak or two, we have affirmed one’s right to secure, pack, and load the arsenal of his/her choice. It’s a decision with which we are living and dying.

The right to bear arms is one aspect of the debate; another is the target(s) of such acts. Attacks on individuals in the public square are attacks on the institutions or groups themselves. In Colorado Springs, it was Planned Parenthood. At the Pulce in Orlando, the LGBTQ community. At the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the African Americans. Political extremism in the first case, self-loathing homophobia in the second, and racism in the third.

Did I mention the Sandy Hook Elementary School or Aurora theater massacres?

The settings add psychological power to the shootings: a facility to access medical care, a nightclub for young people to commune and enjoy life, a church where people of faith gather in prayer and study, a school filled with innocent children, and a place to escape reality via film.

The attack on the Republican congressmen and their aides, as it was six years ago on Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), was an assault on our institution of governance, a violent form of what Vladimir Putin and the Russian government are carrying out in our electoral process. In so doing, Hodgkinson attacked all of us.

Like the others, the settings of the attacks on Scalise and Giffords add to their power. For Giffords, it was outside a grocery store where she was meeting with constituents. For Scalise, on a baseball diamond, America’s national pastime, in the nation’s capital.

In his statement to the House of Representatives, Speaker Paul Ryan said, “We are united. We are united in our shock, we are united in our anguish. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” Ryan meant it in context of his colleagues, but his words apply to all Americans. When one threatens or attacks an elected official, he/she threatens or attacks America.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how over the past 30 years we have personalized ideas and that has led to the politics of personal destruction.

“We conflate the person holding the idea with the idea itself,” I wrote. “Therefore, rather than saying one’s ideas are harebrained, we say he/she is harebrained. We don’t have thoughts; we are our thoughts. Really?”

Those who conflate the person with his/her ideas, beliefs, and opinions dehumanize them, making them unworthy of compassion, empathy, and caring. That is what suicide bombers do.

That’s the dark side of America, its shadow…our shadow.

Conservative columnist Charles Lane wrote in the Washington Post, “Everyone is responsible for what he or she makes of this event after the fact. Each of us has it within his or her power to exploit it — as some predictably rushed to do on social media — or to learn from it.”

The great news, at the time of this writing, is Scalise is improving. What is not, one fears, is Lane’s admonition not being heard. Rather than learning from this tragedy, we’ll go on taking uncompromising positions.

  1. The year of the Columbine High School massacre. The year the 2017 graduation class was born. They don’t know life pre-Columbine. This is their normal. Our normal.

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