The Scalise Shooting

This one hit close to home for me. Steve Scalise represents the district next to mine. I don’t like his politics, but I want him taken out peacefully at the ballot box, not violently in a park.

I wrote about the good part of social media earlier today. We’re seeing the dark side of it now. This time around, it’s bipartisan malakatude since the shooter was a Sanders volunteer. To his credit, the Senator has already taken to the Senate floor to denounce the shooter. It’s not about him, it’s not about right or left, it’s about fundamental human decency.

Not everything is a political issue to be instantly batted about by social media trolls and keyboard warriors. That’s too abstract for my taste, it shows a fatal lack of empathy; a quality we need now more than ever. This is how I summed it up on my Facebook timeline:

Things were already terrible and this will only make it worse. Today, I don’t care that the shooter was a Berner. Today, I don’t care that Scalise has horrible views on everything under the sun. He does. I’ve even made him malaka of the week. But this is not how we *should* do things in America. Unfortunately, violence is as American as apple pie. Our reaction to this event should not be colored by our personal politics. We need to try to be better than that. There’s plenty of time to discuss gun violence and health care. This sort of event doesn’t lend itself to instant analysis. A deep breath is called for.

I told a funny story earlier today,  it’s time for a more serious one. I was a high school freshman when George Wallace was shot. I was a young McGovernite. It was the first time I volunteered in a campaign. As horrible as it sounds, I was in the mood to celebrate when I arrived at my Poli Sci class. My teacher was just as liberal as I was: we stuffed envelopes together at McGovern HQ both before and after the shooting. She informed me that gun violence is wrong regardless of the target. She reminded me that the main reason we both supported George McGovern was to end the war in Vietnam. I realized she was right and felt ashamed for trying to score political points over the Wallace shooting. If it had been George McGovern, I would have cold cocked a kid who was celebrating. She said something that has always stuck with me: “There’s a fatal lack of empathy in the world and that’s what we need.”

It’s true to this very day. The world needs not only love but empathy. Today’s social media discourse reminds me of Adrastos’ first two rules of satire:

  1. Always kick up, never down.
  2. Violence, especially gun violence, is only funny if its slapstick. It’s never funny when it’s real and life threatening.

I learned the second part the hard way when I wanted to tell Wallace jokes way back in 1972. I’m glad I had a teacher who straightened me out. I learned that what the world needs more than anything else is empathy.

I realize some of you won’t agree with parts of this post. So it goes. There will be a time when this is grist for the political mill. I think it’s a good idea to let the dust settle and know what we’re talking about. I prefer the clarity of facts to the fog of social media.

Make sure you read Athenae’s post on the shooting, You Never Thought. She comes at it from an entirely different angle. It’s good stuff.

4 thoughts on “The Scalise Shooting

  1. I’m content to let this episode play itself out without trying to weigh in on the pros or the cons of common American violence. My hope is that because of who the victims were this time around, we can have some meaningful discussion about the circumstances of our society (part of what Athenae’s post is about, part of what your post is about, and other pertinent parts).

    The pessimistic part of me says that the next shooting (and you know there will be one) will not include Republican elected officials in the list of victims, and people who are shaken up today will have gotten over those feelings and rush to the refuge of the Same Old Thinking that makes me so confident that there will be a next shooting.

  2. Some not entirely random thoughts:

    — Previous domestic violence is so often a part of the history of mass shooters that it might as well be called a leading indicator.
    — Nonetheless, thanks mainly to the pressure of the NRA, domestic abusers largely retain their rights to obtain and possess firearms.
    — Steve Scalise has been a big supporter of the NRA, on this point and others.

    And I don’t think it’s too soon to point this out.

  3. I’m profoundly sad that a sick, twisted excuse for a man would sink to this. It is a black stain on our society that we can produce such people. We have for too long stirred up resentments amongst ourselves that poison our discourse and weaken our nation. It might also be prudent to recall this event the next time someone starts blandly talking about “second amendment solutions” and remind them that sometimes is isn’t just their dogs that hear the whistles.

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