This past week has been emotionally and philosophically draining. An aspiring mail-bomber, a race shooting, and a mass killing at a synagogue all stuffed into seven days is shocking to the news cycle, especially when it's combined with the language and metaphor of political violence becoming mainstream in America.
More troubling is the fact that, increasingly, those on the left and the right are talking past each other, trying to show how the "other side" is the cause of the current round of "random acts of violence." I say they're random because these events are not carefully planned conspiracies. The mail-bomber didn't think through his plan to send a dozen or more devices to prominent Democrats and Trump critics. That's obvious because of the ease with which the FBI caught him, literally with his fingerprints all over the evidence.
Thank God nobody was harmed by the mail-bomber's impulsive act. But eleven Jews worshipping at their synagogue were killed by Saturday morning's hate massacre. And at a Kentucky Kroger, a man shot other fellow human beings because he believed his white skin made him a better human than their brown skin made them.
Meanwhile, Rachel Maddow claims that this is all on President Trump. That the Trump era is "unique" in its violence. Toure Neblett joined the MSNBC choir extending the claim of dehumanizing to all conservatives.
> “The right has been on this anti-fact thing for many years now. The president was a birther pushing this notion that was based on absolutely nothing … That’s been consistent of the right for a while,” Neblett said.
Few things demonstrate the current lack of self-awareness more than people's reactions to Neblett's statement.
It's not Trump's lack of respect for the truth that I think is the problem today, it's his, and all of our society's impulsiveness in defending "our side."
When the political and racial rhetoric becomes toxic and dialed up to eleven, it's the impulsive speech that leads to the impulsive thoughts, then translated into impulsive action by those who are motivated and lack inhibitions against violence. It brings out those who are on the fringes of violence and crosses them into the realm of "I'm going in."
Calls for President Trump to "unite" the country are really straw man arguments. Trump can no more unite the country, politically, than President Obama could, or President George W. Bush could, at least after his re-election in 2004. Our nation is divided politically, culturally, spiritually, in ways that defy easy solutions, platitudes, and political speeches.
If Trump indeed gave a wonderful "let's unite" speech, the left would criticize it as more "thoughts and prayers." They'd call for him to support gun confiscation and other liberal policies they campaign on. It would become just another day in political fodder land. It's fake and pretentious.
The problem isn't that Trump refuses to unite America. He would love nothing better than to see us united in a love fest (with himself in the middle of the Kum-ba-yah circle). The problem is that Trump is a bundle of impulsiveness with no filter. He connects with others, on both sides of the political and cultural divide, and encourages their own impulsivity.
This feeds an impulsive need to defend "our side" and "our values." It stymies debate. It's bad enough that the left hates debate and wishes to shut down speech with which they don't agree. It's worse that the left considers its own metaphors for violence, and actual calls for physical harassment, valid. Then those who truly shouldn't be off their medicines, or who consider the left's rhetoric a step too far, take action.
This then leads to those who consider a group of people who, because of their skin color or their religion, to be the cause of their problems, to act out. It's all fed by an increasing tendency to impulsiveness.
And the glandular impulsive-in-Chief is President Donald Trump.
What we need is some self-reflection. Not just from Trump. We need it from the media and liberal institutions also. We need the Southern Poverty Law Center to stop categorizing legitimate organizations like the Family Research Council as hate mongers simply because they disagree with liberal political policies. They still don't believe that the FRC shooting had anything to do with leftist rhetoric.
They still refuse to see that the Congressional shooting last year was inspired by Democratic talking points. But those who reflexively defend the president refuse to see how his impulsivity and casual lies feed into the toxic environment. They refuse to see that Trump's calls for justice--the death penalty--and condemnation of anti-semitism are overwhelmed by his constant baiting of the left and the media.
Both sides need to stop throwing stones long enough to see that they are throwing rocks at mirrors of themselves, and as those mirrors break, they are losing the ability for self-reflection.
The "Trump age" is not, in itself, the age of political violence. But it is the age of impulsiveness and mob action. Those trends always leads to violence. The answer isn't some band-aid words. It's for us to focus on our humanity and our ability for self awareness in our words, and our actions.
Whoever created this meme should be applauded. America needs to get together take a hard look in the mirror. Then we need to be strong enough to stop being reflexive and start being reflective. We are stronger than hate.