Remarks On The Shooting In Virginia

Published on June 15, 2017

Okay. This shouldn’t have to be said. But here we go again.

♦ Mentally ill people, people with histories of violence and lawbreaking, whether they be right-wing nutjobs or left-wing nutjobs, shouldn’t have an easy, lawful pathway toward the purchase and possession of guns. Period. Will that stop all the shootings? Hell no. But it might stop some of them.

♦ There are major differences between the two big political parties on the issue above. One party wants to make it harder to obtain weapons, the other wants to make it much, much easier. Therefore, one party is much, much more to blame for the ridiculous amount of gun violence we see in the United States. That is indisputable. Don’t even bother trying.

♦ It’s not okay for Americans to settle political differences with violence. It should be obvious that even right-wing reactionaries like Steve Scalise deserve to live their lives without the slightest fear of getting murdered because of their political views. (Here’s to his full recovery, by the way, as well as all those who were shot.)

♦ One party nominated and then helped “elect” a guy who has, very publicly, said he would “pay the legal fees” of people who took his advice “to knock the crap” out of potential tomato-tossers at his rallies. That’s unacceptable. Or at least it should be.

♦ One party nominated and then helped “elect” a guy who has, very publicly, embraced and praised thuggish autocrats around the world (he even begged one of them for help during the election) who use violence to control their noisy citizens or, as in the case of the Turkish Thug, use violence to silence protesters—on American soil, for God’s sake. That’s unacceptable. Or at least it should be.

♦ It is true that we ought to be able to fight—metaphorically—over policies, priorities for the country, and what our future should look like without demonizing each other. It’s also true we ought to respect each other as we engage in these fights. But until Republicans stop supporting Tr-mp they will not, speaking only for myself, get my respect. Nope. No respect until they throw out of office the guy who enthusiastically supports thuggish behavior. No respect until they reject the guy who begged a thuggish Russian for election assistance. No respect until they turn away from the guy who patted the Turkish Thug on the back—after he fraudulently manipulated a referendum that essentially massacred democracy in Turkey. No respect until they impeach the guy who is using his office for financial gain and who, just this morning, said the following about those public servants who are, apparently, investigating him for obstruction of justice regarding the Russia probe:

You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history – led by some very bad and conflicted people!

To Tr-mp, all who oppose him, or have a job to do to make sure he’s not breaking any laws or violating the Constitution, are “bad” people. Bad. And that tweet came a day after the shooting of a congressman and others in Virginia, a day after Tr-mp said the following regarding that shooting:

We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country.

Tr-mp, of course, didn’t mean that. He read what someone wrote for him. He stuck to the script. The next day, likely the next hour, he was back in “some very bad” people mode, referring to those people serving “in our nation’s capital.”

I will say this again: Tr-mp didn’t start all this stuff. He merely represents what years of Republican tolerance (and some amount of encouragement) of lies and distortions by Rush Limbaugh and Fox “News” and the Drudge Report—and now including Breitbart and Infowars, explicitly embraced by Tr-mp himself—has produced. Such dishonorable tolerance has almost destroyed our democratic immune system. And until Republican Party leaders—now wholly responsible for Tr-mp and Tr-mpism—call out the standard-lowering, truth-killing demagogues in its tent, they will get no respect from me, even if, as an American, they will always have my pledge of peaceful resistance.

♦ Finally, there is a rather noble idea going around today regarding the annual Congressional Baseball Game between D’s and R’s, for which Scalise and other R’s were practicing when the shooting began. Huffpo’s Ed Mazza put it this way:

Instead of having the two parties play each other, as tradition holds, many people would like to see the teams mix rosters to show they’re all really on the same side: America.

Now, I confess I also thought of that idea when news of the tragic shooting first started unfolding yesterday. But something about the notion, as well-meaning as it sounds and is meant to be, didn’t quite sit right with me. I wasn’t quite sure why until I read one of the suggestions, posted by Noah Gittell on Twitter, in Mazza’s piece:

If Congress really wanted to make a meaningful gesture, they’d get rid of this Dem vs. Rep crap and mix the two teams.

I understand the emotion behind that suggestion. I really do. But the suggestion itself doesn’t make sense. The annual baseball game between political rivals is suppose to be a metaphor for the idea that people with very important political differences can still come together—as who they are—and compete under the rules of an old, old game. They can, as partisans, fight like hell to win and not, when it’s all over, take a bat to the heads of Image result for congressional baseball gametheir opponents. Mixing the two teams would send exactly the wrong message. We can’t “get rid of this Dem vs. Rep crap” any more than we can get rid of any important differences between us. What we can do is—and, again, this is what the game tonight is suppose to celebrate—learn to live with those differences, learn to fight with each other over those differences, but do so under certain rules of engagement, rules that both parties respect and follow, rules that insure a peaceful future for an always-divided America.

Political parties, as messy and unsatisfying as they often are, do represent something important in our democracy. They are consolidations of ideas about what America should look like, what it should be. Thus, they are institutions with often conflicting visions for our national future. And one of our parties, one of those institutions, has gone completely off the rails, forgetting all the old rules and conventions of the game that both sides accepted and honored, and making new ones up to advance their—and only their—agenda.

They support a democracy-disabling man named Tr-mp. They intentionally sabotaged Obamacare and now pass important life-and-death bills without hearings (the House) and in secret (the Senate). They purposely blocked judicial nominees President Obama was entitled to have confirmed, and are now attempting to fill those same positions with Tr-mp people, complete with all the bigotry that goes with him. Republicans have done all this and much, much more. And we, as Democrats or as independents, can’t help them get back to playing the game the right way until we are willing to hold them—peacefully—accountable for their politically deviant behavior.

And no disturbed man with a gun—a gun he shouldn’t have had—should stop us from doing that.

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8 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  June 15, 2017

    For the record, every single Republican Congressman in Mo voted to roll back the Obama Admin law that allowed the Social Security Admin to identify people so mentally disabled that their monthly checks are delivered through a second party.( HJ.RES.40, House vote 77) This was Feb 2, 2017.
    Now as far as rhetoric, I have read news stories on FOX today by S Varney and N Gingrich that actually blame the “left” for this. I am not saying the Dems don’t have their share of zealots by any means. But do people actually think we have forgotten the the reaction when Obama was even being CONSIDERED to be president? Pallin famously said that she doesn’t retreat, she reloads. Ted Nugent implied he would harm Obama and be jailed if he were reelected. He also said that H Clinton could suck on his rifle. (The one he apparently was scared to use in Vietnam) And during the campaign last year Trump stated that if Hillary was elected that maybe the “2nd amendment people” could take care of her since she would be selecting Supreme court Justices. Now they are threatened by a Kathy Griffen photo?
    During these last several years I have witnessed far too many former aquaintances that I had never heard actually SAY the word gun, begin to stock pile them. It was very strange to hear the veiled threats against our democracy of people that I knew for a lifetime. And any mild suggestion to maybe get some training or maybe a .38 was better for the home versus an AK 47 was met with the usual tough talk that I must be the enemy. This includes family members. (ironically, many used the word “Communist” LOL.) It was to a point where I no longer wanted contact with most of these people, and surprisingly it did not stop after their guy was elected President.
    Personally, I have left the social media cesspool as my way of bringing back civility and I would encourage others to do the same. It has given me back much peace in my daily life.

    Kevin Beck

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    • Kevin,

      I would bet most people don’t know what you pointed out about what Republicans did regarding an Obama administration rule on guns. I have written about this, but it bears repeating. Here is how NBC News reported it on February 28, the day Agent Orange signed it:

      President Donald Tr-mp quietly signed a bill into law Tuesday rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun.

      The rule, which was finalized in December, added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database.

      Had the rule fully taken effect, the Obama administration predicted it would have added about 75,000 names to that database.

      President Barack Obama recommended the now-nullified regulation in a 2013 memo following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six others dead. The measure sought to block some people with severe mental health problems from buying guns.

      As far as Varney and Gingrich, both of them repulse me to the point where I can’t stand to hear them talk. I follow Newt on Twitter just to make sure I don’t lose touch with how ridiculous right-wingers, supposedly “brilliant” ones like him, have become.

      Yep, there are nuts on the left. But they don’t seem to do as much damage these days as the nuts on the right. And I’m glad you reminded me of that Second Amendment talk from Tr-mp. At the time I wrote this piece, that didn’t come to mind. Wish it had. That was scary shit.

      Your personal experiences with people in your orbit are not unique, obviously. Many, many people report the same thing. And surveys now show that the most segregating factor in American life these days is not race, but your political party, or more accurately, the political party of the other guy. This polarization is the result, in my opinion, of conservative talk radio, then Fox, then all kinds of websites that peddle lies and half- and quarter-truths, what one journalist has called the “disinformation ecosystem.” It is a real thing and it is doing real damage to the country.

      Problem is, I don’t think the damage can be undone, as Varney and Gingrich demonstrate. There is too much money in lying to people who want to be lied to.

      Duane

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      • King Beauregard

         /  June 17, 2017

        About nuts on the Left: James Hodgkinson and Jeremy Christian were both very much in the tank for Bernie, but more than anything it reflects the problem with winning supporters over from the Republicans. I think we all failed to ask the question (I know I did anyway): if Bernie can make good on his promise to woo conservatives, exactly what sort of people will he be winning over, and will they be worth the trouble?

        Let’s bear in mind that Bernie is no paragon of Leftie principles. He talks a good game on economics, yes. But on at least three points he is a poor Leftie. 1) His eagerness to dismiss “identity politics” as a distraction and a selfish one at that. 2) His readiness to genuflect to the NRA. 3) His indifference to the ongoing pattern of intolerable behavior among his supporters (Nevada death threats anyone?). Just imagine the sorts of aggrieved, potentially violent white people he might attract.

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        • King B,

          You asked a good question. But, to be fair, it is a question we could ask anyone on the left side who argued they could attract conservatives. Because the kind of conservatives that someone on the left could attract, would, by definition, not be principled people (think in reverse about those who voted for Obama and then Tr-mp). The kind of conservatism I once was attracted to at least had some guiding principles, beyond merely winning elections. And if Bernie, or anyone else on this side of the spectrum, could attract people who, say, supported Paul Ryan, the quality of those people would be questionable, in terms of stability. Just my opinion.

          As far as Bernie and his principles, the three objections you raise all have some merit, except I think #3 is a bit unfair, since that was in the heat of a campaign and there was conflicting information deliberately distributed by people who should have known better. Bernie, I think, got caught up in that moment and should have done better, but I think you miss his biggest fault: he is determined to hijack and run the Democratic Party or else. I have become, more and more, an institutionalist. With Tr-mp in power, I can see very clearly now that we all should think twice and three times before we seek to undermine any of our important institutions. Look at what has happened to the GOP. It is now thoroughly corrupt with no hope of recovery. And I don’t want the Democratic Party to be taken over by people who have no real love for it as an institution, but only want to use it as a handy vehicle to achieve their own narrow goals, even if I share many of those goals.

          My argument against Bernie, as you know well, is that he refuses to become a Democrat. That means, at least to me, that he doesn’t much care for the institutional existence of the Democratic Party. That I can’t abide. As I have said more times than I can count, if he wants to change the party, he has to pay his dues and be willing to join it by name and embrace it as the country’s greatest hope of recovery. If he doesn’t want to do that, he will never win me over.

          Duane
           

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  2. ansonburlingame

     /  June 17, 2017

    I have always joined people that call for much greater control of the possession of guns by private individuals in America. I thus agree with the liberal call to do exactly that. And I believe it can be done Constitutionally, as I have written before in my own (now defunct) blog and herein.

    The right to bear arms is predicated on the need for a militia, pure and simple. Just read the 2nd Amendment. So if an American citizen needs a gun to carry with him into a militia constituted by government, then he has a right, almost a responsibility to own such a weapon such that he can join a legal militia to support and defend his country. No militia, no legal gun ownership, by individuals. Certainly there is no constitutional right to hunt, as well, so no constitutional authority to own a gun to hunt. Government even regulates hunting with no constitutional outrage over same. Why not regulation of guns for hunting?

    But so far our courts have upheld the constitutional right to not be infringed from carrying almost any arms by all Americans. So like it or not there is strong precedence, something you liberals hold sacred (unless you don’t like such rights). To infringe on such a constitutional right demands great wisdom, something few politicians on either side seem to have these days.

    You claim mentally ill people have no right to bear arms. I agree. Now define, legally, mentally ill please. Is a drug addict or alcoholic mentally ill? DSM IV says they are, or at least says such addiction is just that, a mental illness. So should every member of AA or NA, each member is admittedly addicted (or was addicted) to drugs or alcohol, be legally prevented from bearing (owing) arms? What is the difference, legally, from a “drunk” and a “dangerous drunk”? I have observed both and it is pretty easy to tell the difference using common sense, but not the law for sure.

    Should any mentally ill person be denied the right of free speech? Is free speech a greater constitutional right than gun ownership or are they equal in terms of an absolute right? Should a mentally ill person be denied the right of privacy such that his property could be searched without a warrant? Is privacy of property a greater right that gun ownership. Who knows what “that crazy guy” might be hiding???

    Bottom line, is how can the medical profession learn to diagnose mental illness, legally, and thus constitutional rights can then be withheld, legally, for people with such disease?

    But there is an extraordinarily slippery slope in all this. How can law prevent the use of a diagnosis of mental illness for political purposes? You and many others claim Trump is mentally ill. Is that enough to enable the federal government to invoke the 25th amendment right now? How many experts does it take to form such a diagnosis for a sitting president and how must such diagnosis be forced to withstand legal challenges in open courts of law?

    Based on your blog it seems you and many of your supporters would support removal from the presidency of Trump because he is 1. mentally ill. 2. Violated the emolument clause of the constitution 3. Has obstructed justice. Must you now prove it in a court of law in the Senate (yes you must in my view) and must you do so beyond a reasonable doubt, perpondrance of evidence, the more tenuous “rises to the level of impeachment” (please define that term legally) or is “popular opinion” all that it takes?

    One final term I will now throw into the mix of current events. A friend used it lately so I claim no original thinking in passing it on. Is America, today, witnessing a “Soft Coup”? Certainly it has become a no holds barred fight all over America to actually remove a sitting president OR to keep him in office no matter what.

    In the matter that instigated this blog a left wing nut-job raised hell but Trump/GOP is responsible for it. So if a right wing nut-job raises hell is the Democratic Party thus responsible? Or is it possible that when any nut-job raises hell it is the responsibility of the medical profession; they should have diagnosed him before he raised hell and committed him to, well what exactly? Or is it the failure of law enforcement to keep nut-jobs off the streets?

    Anson

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    • Anson,

      You make a good point about identifying the mentally ill among us, at least those who shouldn’t be in legal possession of a firearm. It’s really something of a moot point, though, given that we have so many guns in this country that anyone with the will and means can get one, legal or not. But as a society, I still think it important we make an attempt to restrict gun ownership under certain conditions. We can fight over the conditions, but we aren’t even to that point. We are still fighting over whether there should even be conditions. A large swath of important people in GOP leadership don’t believe there should be, at least if we judge them by their inaction on the issue. And that is the biggest problem we have.

      Oh, and allow me to correct you about the reasons to impeach Tr-mp. Obviously, mental illness is in play, when it comes to removing him from office. But that falls under the 25th Amendment. Impeachment is for conduct related to high crimes and misdemeanors. Now, that is where I start: 1. Emoluments. 2. Emoluments. 3. Emoluments. I don’t even have to get to whether he obstructed justice, which I think he did. The only argument for me, at least at this point, is how will the Supreme Court decided what constitutes an emolument under the Constitution? Clearly Tr-mp is benefitting financially from being president, in terms of his businesses. That’s not even something he would argue against. The question is are we going to put any meaning into the emoluments clauses in the document that is supposed to be the supreme law of the land? It doesn’t look like it. Those clauses apparently don’t qualify as part of the Constitution for Republicans.

      Finally, there is no easy answer to what to do with people like the Virginia shooter. We can’t have an army of psychiatrists roaming the streets looking for signs of mental illness among the citizens or, for God’s sake, with warrants to come in our homes and look for evidence there. And the police certainly aren’t capable of administering a mental competence examination (although they should be better trained to spot signs when they encounter troublemakers while on duty; they, and citizens, could adopt a “see something, say something” strategy regarding such signs).

      We, unfortunately, are going to have to live with the fact that we have a lot of mentally ill people around us with access to too many guns. We can’t stop all of these types of crimes in a gun-soaked America. But surely we can prevent some of them. Surely we can make it harder to obtain firearms. Surely we can demand that those who have them have permits and training to handle them safely. That wouldn’t prevent all of these tragedies, obviously. But it would prevent some of them, particularly the tragedies that occur every day involving kids getting killed by “unloaded” guns in careless people’s homes.

      Duane

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  3. Anonymous

     /  June 18, 2017

    The Bill Maher show on Friday night covered all of the points in this topic. Included is a visit from the Brietbart Editor in Chief Alex Marlow. People here may be interested in the show which can be seen via Youtube.

    Kevin Beck

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