I have warned many times in this space that we as a people have for some time been headed to a state of civil war. In fact, I suggested in a recent post based on election-related events in Montana that this war had already started.
Well, it takes a minimum of two opponents to make a shooting war. And eleven days ago, on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, the other side finally shot back, as a deranged gunman who had supported Bernie Sanders opened fire on members of Congress and others as they were practicing for a charity baseball event. The gunman lost his life; his would-be victims were more fortunate in that all of them survived, thanks in no small part to the heroic efforts of Capitol Police who were on the scene because Rep. Steve Scalise, one of four who were injured, is part of the House of Representatives leadership. Fortunately, Scalise's condition has been upgraded over the past eleven days from critical to serious to fair. I pray that he and the others will fully recover, as many of us already have prayed.
But, even if they do recover, it still leaves us with the fact that, after a long string of violent incidents and threats by those on the right against those they thought of as easy targets on the left ("snowflakes," I believe, being the epithet of choice), it appears that the days of easy targets are over.
Make no mistake. If there is one person out there like the Alexandria shooter, in a nation of 300-plus people (and at least one gun for every one of them), there are many, many more. And they will not be deterred by the prospect of death. Desperation will do that to people. If an incident like this is any indication, I fear that we many not have to wait very long for the next Alexandria. I do not stand along in thinking this way; John (son of Norman) Podhoretz, no one's idea of a bleeding-heart liberal, recently made much the same point I have made about the level of division in America.
Let me be as unambiguous about where I stand on all of this as possible.
I do not condone violence. I do not advocate violence. I cherish our democratic ideals and institutions, and I pray that they will continue to serve the nation and the world for many, many centuries to come.
But ideals and institutions are only as strong as the commitment that they receive from the people--from all of the people. It has, however, been obvious to me for decades that one side of our political divide lives by those ideals, while the other is content to pay them lip-service. Lip-service that has disguised the libel, the threats, the behind-the-scenes manipulation, the outright bribery, and the damnable lies for which, in the name of the Republic for which all of us should stand, they and they alone are solely responsible.
For years, the practical aspects of the relationship between Democrats and Republicans have best been summed up by many through the running gag in the comic strip "Peanuts" in which Lucy holds a football for Charlie Brown to kick, but pulls it away just as he is about to kick it, causing him to slip, fall, and feel foolish. Over and over again.
We saw this happen once again, sadly, in the aftermath of the Alexandria shooting. While Paul Ryan attempted to take a bipartisan tone of congressional unity and support for the victims, and Donald Trump was once again using someone else's tragedy to call attention to his foolish self, Democrats once again issued calls for unity and bipartisanship, taking yet another run at that fickle football.
And, unsurprisingly, it got pulled away from them again.
It got pulled away by the anonymous phone calls to congressional Democrats, threatening them with thinly-veiled promises of violence
It got pulled away by the Georgia Republican Party, which bragged about how the shooting would help them win a special congressional election in Georgia. (Sadly, they were right).
It got pulled away by the return of Hillary-hatred, pumped up to the level that Trump pumped it up during the campaign (when he suggested a "Second Amendment" outcome for the election).
It got pulled away by ridiculous suggestions that the shooting reflected some kind of epidemic of leftist violence.
Oh, to be sure, there's been an epidemic, all right. But one would be hard-pressed to honestly call it "leftist" violence. More like "rightist" violence--or, to truly put cards on the table, racist violence.
Think, for a moment, about the dozens of victims of gun violence during the Obama years. What did many of them have in common? Did someone say "African-American"? Well, that would be me, because, if the other side was equally honest, they would use a less-attractive phrase.
I sum it all up in a single name: Philando Castle, gunned down by a police officer while he was peacefully and lawfully sitting in his car committing the unpardonable crime of being a black man with a lawful firearm. If the word "black" could honestly be removed from that sentence, the NRA would be (no pun intended) up in arms over his fate. The fact that they are not speaks volumes about the real motives of the NRA and their fellow-travellers. The fact that the National Review (again, no commie-pinkos here) denounced the shooting speaks volumes about how much Castle's tragic death undermines the entire conservative position on guns.
But it won't stop conservatives from pandering to gun-toting voters. I'm reminded by this fact of a quote by Lenin, to the effect that if the Communists announced a plan by which they would hang all capitalists, the capitalists would trip over each other to sell the rope.
And thus, we have one of the targeted members of Congress advocating already for yet-looser gun laws. We also have another one who voted against background checks wanting to know more about the background of the Alexandria shooter (you might have known, you fool, if you hadn't cast that stupid vote). We have yet another one denouncing DC gun laws while simultaneously admitting that the threat of guns is the reason that Republicans aren't holding town halls during congressional recesses. And, of course, we have one of my personal favorites, Senator Rand (named after Ayn) Paul neglecting to take off of Twitter a seemingly embarrassing-in-light-of-recent events quote.
Or did he neglect it? Maybe the threatened loss of gun voters outweighed the embarrassment.
Perhaps the most honest comment from a congressional Republican is this one. Yes, it's no longer safe to chase the gun vote. Like it or not, and I take a back seat to no one in hating it, the battle has been joined.