Rhetoric Did Not Injure Anyone Yesterday

Let’s be clear about one thing. Yesterday’s shooting of Republican congressmen and staff persons in Virginia was not about rhetoric. It was about the violence inherent in human nature coupled with easy availability of “weapons of mass destruction” in the United States coupled with a mentally and emotionally unstable person.

Oh, we hear yesterday and today all kinds of cries, mostly from the Right, to tone down our rhetoric, to realize that we are one nation, and to work together to find solutions to the problems. Where were those sentiments when proposals to take away health care from millions of Americans, plans to build a wall across our southern border, and a “travel ban” affecting mostly Muslim-majority countries were floated with very little conversation “across the aisle?”

Actually, politically-motivated violence of the kind we saw yesterday is not very common in this country, compared to earlier times in our history and to many other nations around the world today. However, if the ever-widening gap between rich and poor continues to increase, if the “forgotten” people pandered to by Donald Trump (and, to some degree, by Bernie Sanders) do not actually begin to feel that their voices are being heard somewhere in the halls of power, and if some actions are not taken to regulate the sale and possession of firearms to people who should never have them, incidents of this kind are likely to increase exponentially in the coming years.

We may think that we are protected from “class warfare” of the kind history has witnessed time and time again. As long as there was an ever-expanding middle class and people had some hope that their children would be better off than they are when they grow up, that was probably true. But we are quickly reaching a time when frustrated, angry, and desperate men like James T. Hodgkinson will not be so exceptional, but rather may begin to gather in decidedly “unregulated” militias and we may find ourselves with blood in the streets, not just on an isolated baseball diamond.

Heated rhetoric did not injure anyone yesterday. Anger, frustration, and emotional instability which found its outlet in the use of assault-style weapons which no one except the military and possibly the police should own did. When will we begin seriously to address the underlying causes of such violence? And when will we enact sensible gun-control measures which can at least mitigate the damage done in the meantime?

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