United we’re not

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No elected official deserves to be shot. I do not care what your politics are or whether you are an unpopular president, high-ranking member of Congress, or a local city official. Nothing good is ever accomplished via the assassination of our elected officials. Our nation is much better served when we make them stand before the public and be held accountable at the polls and when necessary, courts of law.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) receives a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle during his speech after shooting at GOP baseball practice (YouTube)

That said, I was deeply angered by the blatant and false showing of unity by our Congress after yet another shooting rampage, this time the targets being members of the Republican Party while they practiced for their annual baseball game against Democrats. These are the same people who love to use events like Sandy Hook to go on the offensive to push their gun and mental health agendas, which only tear us apart further as a nation.

Worse, this shameless act of false unification came just a day after the well publicized partisan politics centered on Attorney General Jeff Session’s open testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. With it came the vicious personal attacks aimed at anyone whose beliefs do not fall in line with one particular party’s line of thinking. The level of hate and disrespect shown by members of Congress and their countless party surrogates who eat up cable news air time has resulted in the rest of this nation following the lead of their elected leaders.

It does not take long on social media to read what people are thinking. Just the other day, my editor, Tim Forkes, brought to my attention a comment made to me in response to an article I wrote. To call it disturbing is an understatement.

I have seen comments about tragedy that has struck families who were poor and just getting by that have said, “No big loss. They were probably Democrats.” Similar comments can easily be found about Republicans, the wealthy, blacks, Hispanics and women.

We all know the more we see something, the more we become numb to it. I used to be shocked at the level of disrespect shown toward me and my teaching colleagues early on in my career. After 30 years, the comments were like water off a duck’s back. I didn’t get worked up by them, but they still stayed in my head.

The lack of regard for other people based on their beliefs, situation, or politics has numbed this nation to a dangerous point. The sense that we do not have to get along together and find ways to compromise has been replaced by total disregard for anyone and anything that runs counter to one’s beliefs.

I can hear the arguments coming in a day or two. The GOP has failed to address the issue of mental illness and background checking on gun sales. If everyone in that park were armed the shooter never would have gotten off a shot. We need to rethink what the Second Amendment means. More people need access to guns to protect themselves. Guns don’t kill, people kill.

It’s all empty bullshit that solves nothing and because of the level of legislative depravity we have reached in this nation, we are beginning to see the depths more citizens are sinking to in order to make their voices heard.

Wednesday, it was Representative Steve Scalise, the Majority Whip from Louisiana. We’ve seen the end result of Gabby Gifford prior to this. How much lower will we sink?

I was a nine year old wonk who loved to follow the turmoil of 1968 when Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered. My mom woke me up in the middle of the night while the rest of the family slept a few months later when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. There were the attempts on President Ford’s and Reagan’s lives that came too close for our national comfort. All of those had one thing in common: they came before the era of social media.

Today, the hate spreads like wild fire and we seem to have no sense of having to police ourselves because we have elected officials who rely so heavily on the emotional connection they can make to an endless number of voters with a simple tweet or post. As they go, so go the rest of us.

If the media feeds off this anger and promotes it with how they cover events, who they bring on to rile up viewers, and live for ratings over common sense, then they become fuel to an out of control fire.

As citizens, we want to be informed. We do not need manipulation in the name of ratings or social divide, we just need to be informed in a way that allows us to think and decide for ourselves rather than be pushed and prodded to an emotional outburst that may be shared with the world with a simple Facebook post, or worse, shared on the national news thanks to another act of senseless violence.

So rather than showing us a meaningless attempt at unity, Congress would be wise to start reaching out across the political divide to not just work together on political issues, but to come together and start setting a better example for the rest of a nation in desperate need of a new type of leadership and behavior.

Top photo of the street next to the park where the shooting took place in Alexandria, VA (Michael Jordan)