Whenever senseless violence rears its head in America we are doomed to listen to pundit after pundit as they hypothesize, theorize and speculate as to what motivations the attacker may have had and how such an attack could have been avoided. It is only natural to try and understand these things. Violence, especially when it enters the political arena, as it often does, is a sad and confusing thing. It makes us bear witness to a side of ourselves we don’t really want to admit exists. Violence forces us to recognize that we are all capable of committing awful, horrible acts. Violence is one of the many pitfalls of being human.
Today’s shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has generated a lot of reactions and hot takes. It has sparked a new wave gun control debates, others have taken the opportunity to blame the act on an outbreak of ‘Radical Leftist Terror.’ If only the cause and its solution were so simple. We, as a society, would do well to stop treating these acts of violence as senseless tragedies, but instead, symptoms of a real disease festering away in the hearts and minds of US citizens.
As I wrote back in February and touched on again in April and May, political dialogue is important, but it also carries consequences. Today’s violence is an indictment of the state of division we have allowed to grow in this nation. The divide of Right and Left, Republican, and Democrat, while very real in terms of political ideals, is completely imagined when we talk about the substance of a human life. No one is born a Republican or a Democrat, conservatism is not written into our genetic code, nor is liberalism. These are just labels we use, simple words to neatly place people into convenient boxes so we don't have to consider the entirety of one's argument as an individual. By branding people based on political ideology, we can categorize people in order to avoid those we disagree with and better find those we more closely identify.
The problem isn’t in labels themselves, the problem isn’t even the fact that the Overton Window has been moved to a point where our labels are pretty much meaningless anyway (Our political parties both stand for very little). The real problem lies in how we talk about and talk to our ideological opponents. Respect, kindness, compassion, caring along with any sense of brotherhood or connection to the common good has been thrown out the proverbial window and what we have left is an accusatorial shouting match about who is really the eviler, more hate-filled tribe. It is bordering on insanity and it has become an absolutely mundane aspect of our daily lives. Our political class, from politicians to pundits, from surrogates to lobbyists, have lost the plot altogether and have taken our society with them as they spin lies, sling mud, hurl insults, cast doubt, throw blame, and all but indict opponents on a litany of charges, including high treason. I cannot stress enough how BIPARTISAN these issues are. We are all responsible, we are all guilty and we are ALL charged with finding and implementing solutions.
As far as I am concerned the easiest and most logical answer is to hit the reset button. We have to COMMANDEER political discourse from the likes of CNN and MSNBC, from FOX news and from the New York Times. Political discussion needs to start individually with all of us, and those discussions we have, be it with a family member over dinner or a stranger on the internet, need to remain rooted in the unmistaken reality and the unwavering truth that you don’t know everything… I don’t know everything… No one knows anything and we are simply trying to figure it all out together, as one human population in a beautiful nation, we call America. We must recognize every day, in all of our interactions that we are all human beings who have intrinsic dignity and the inalienable right to speak our minds and our hearts freely and openly. We must all practice patience, display respect for our fellow Americans and refuse to let strongly held political ideals be what divides the people of this land.
These requests are easier said than done, but if we demand civility and cooperation from our political leadership (I'looking at you major corporate media institutions) that change in attitude will pervade the nation. Nonviolent, respectful interactions go much further to spread ideas and win hearts and minds. WE must, democrats, republicans and independents alike, put first our identity as Americans. We must rely on that sacred kinship we all share. Americans need to learn to cherish the undeniable, sacred bond we share and then we can debate our rivaling visions for the country with the inherent knowledge that despite our differences we are working for the same common goal of bettering the land in which we reside. May God bless you, Dear Reader, from whatever walk of life you hail from, no matter your background, know that you have my respect and I am proud to share this nation with you. Love is the only answer when trying to combat violence. Please help spread it.
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