“Don’t politicize this tragedy.”
That’s what constantly we hear when someone murders a bunch of people and terrorizes the populace.
Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said as much after the mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017. So did Sean Hannity of all people, amazingly with a straight face, after the same shooting. Mitch McConnell, the living embodiment of the phrase “bad faith,” made a similar case after that one, as well. Actually, most of the national GOP did at some point after Las Vegas.
After the Parkland, Florida school shooting in 2018, a number of (mostly) right-wing public figures made similar arguments, including Senator Marco Rubio and media grifter Tomi Lahren.
Within just the last week, mass shootings have occurred at a festival in Gilroy, California, a mall in El Paso, Texas, and at a bar in Dayton, Ohio. Predictably, within hours of the third massacre, Senator Tim Scott has already warned us about politicizing these tragedies. John Cornyn took a different route, claiming there’s no answer to the problem of mass shootings. This incredibly dishonest statement would almost be funny, were it not costing lives.
We’re told that it’s important to mourn, to respect the loss of life, to reflect and pray. We should be solemn and not speak too loudly about the actual cause of these tragedies.
And these statements almost always come from someone who happens to be politically, ideologically, and/or financially opposed to resolving the gun violence epidemic in the United States. Funny how that works. They want us to turn politics off as soon as it might start to irritate their constituents, or more importantly, their donors.
In a democratic society (or at least a society that pays lip service to democratic traditions), politics are how problems get resolved. We have to politicize tragedies. We have to discuss their causes, we have to debate their solutions. We have to create laws, and design enforcement.
It’s also important to note that these mass shootings are inherently political. The far right, white supremacist domestic terrorists that have been the cause of so many of these tragedies have been murdering innocents specifically for political reasons. Terrorism is a political act. White supremacy is political. Far right ethno-nationalism is political. Killing members of a group specifically because of their group identity is political.
Not all violence is political, but carefully planned, targeted violence generally is.
The National Rifle Association and the firearms manufacturing industry are political. The Congressmonsters who accept money from these groups are political.
When Mitch McConnell or Ted Cruz tells us not to politicize a tragedy, what they’re saying is we should ignore the fact that it’s already political. They’re telling us not to use the best tools at our disposal for preventing the next one.
Also, it’s totally fair to observe that more than one of these recent acts was at least in part inspired by the ignorant, dishonest, violent, and bigoted rhetoric of the 45th President of the United States.
I’ve discussed this before, and I’m sad to say I have to do so again. Donald Trump has condoned and even encouraged violence from his supporters. Trump isn’t by any means the primary cause of mass shootings. Events like these predate the Declaration of Independence.
But he has provided verbal support to those who commit violent acts in his name. He has defended violent actions. He has directed racist statements at people of color. He has demonized immigrants and refugees. White supremacists have noted that even if he doesn’t publicly identify as one of them, Trump is the closest thing they’ve had to an ally in the White House in generations.
While Donald Trump deserves at least some degree of blame for the intensity of the resurgence in white supremacist violence, the real elephant in the room is far simpler to identify, though apparently not to resolve.
Firearms violence in general is primarily caused by easy access to firearms. This has been confirmed at the state, national, and international level again and again and again. We already understand the main reason why the United States suffers a severe epidemic of gun violence, even if many are in denial of this fact.
Mass shootings and related terrorist acts are statistically more rare and a bit more complicated. Guns are still part of the equation, but there’s something else to it.
The largest percentage of mass shooters in recent years tend to have specific political motivations. The easy access they have to firearms exists mostly due to political considerations.
It’s all political.
And the solutions, in a nation where we elect those who make the laws, are political solutions.
It’s not wrong to be polite and considerate. If I met the family of a victim of a mass shooting, I would attempt to provide comfort and support before launching into political tirades.
But outside of that very specific scenario, there is no reason to hold the politics. Terrorism is political. Gun policy in America is political. Right wing extremism and white supremacy are political.
I’m going to politicize this. And anyone who cares about reducing the frequency of these tragedies should, too.
If anything, we need to make this more political. We need to shame those we elected into working toward real solutions. And if they happen to be in the pockets of the NRA, or they happen to have white nationalist leanings, then we need to shame the voters into replacing them with decent human beings.