Last night I made the mistake of perusing the Facebook page of Rep. Steve Scalise, and reading comments left under the medical updates following the Scalise shooting therein.
What I found, amid the majority of messages from well-wishers and prayers it should be said, was horrifying.
Many of these contain some pretty salty language, so I apologize to those who are easily offended…
There were others, lots of them. And again, they weren’t the majority of the comments left on Scalise’s update threads; the majority constituted a passionate outpouring of goodwill.
But as we’ve catalogued here at The Hayride, there have been far, far more outbursts of vitriol directed at a man fighting for his life in a hospital after being shot in an attempted political assassination than anyone could have imagined.
Why? Why are there so many people attempting to pour insult upon injury in this case?
I offer three thoughts, some echoing what Steven Waguespack said here yesterday and some a bit further afield.
Good Christians (and good Jews) make for good people, and we have fewer of them.
That statement isn’t necessarily exclusive of good Muslims, but for now we’ll leave that aside as a slightly different and more complicated conversation.
As I was stumbling upon the attacks above, a famous quote by John Adams kept echoing in my mind…
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Are we still a moral and religious people? I think most of us are. Clearly less of us fit that description than in the past. I would be willing to say the disgusting and vile utterings of the slobs captured above are an indication that foundation has cracks.
It used to be, and thankfully in most precincts still is, that a fundamental pursuit of life’s journey was to finish the game at the Pearly Gates with a thumbs-up from St. Peter. If I might be allowed to grossly oversimplify, because I don’t want to bog this down in a theological discussion I don’t profess the expertise to carry, one of the most brilliant facets of the Judeo-Christian way of life, reinforced by the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Christ, is the concept of individual agency undergirded by a judgement after death. Do what you will in this life, and accept the consequences.
That works beautifully, because it both establishes the legitimacy of individual freedom without which none of the benefits of our society would be available and also lends order to our conduct. In a Christian society, for example, you don’t need laws against hate speech – that speech will be dealt with by a higher authority who actually does have the power to see into the heart of the speaker and whose judgement isn’t corrupted by bias or self-interest or ideology. The Judeo-Christian way of life, powered as it is by the pursuit of a place in heaven and directed by the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Christ, motivates its followers to ignore, to the point practicable, the negative influences of others and ask, “what course of action brings me closer to God?”
Setting upon the Facebook page of a man who has just been shot by someone who shares your politics and gloating over the attack, or justifying it based on the victim’s policy positions, clearly does not bring one closer to God. It’s safe to say none of these are good Christians or good Jews, and they are not shamed by the predominance of those who are – perhaps because they perceive no such predominance.
Adams would see this spectacle and likely conclude that it proves his point. Giving 2nd Amendment rights to a James Hodgkinson would seem like a suicidal decision. The problem, though, isn’t the 2nd Amendment rights. It’s the James Hodgkinsons of the world. If Hodgkinson’s life obsession was scripture rather than left-wing politics he might have turned out as a slightly annoying and perhaps hypocritical street preacher rather than an untalented would-be assassin.
Social Media accelerates what is already there in us.
There are lots of people who are blaming the current climate on social media, and this isn’t so much a defense of Facebook and Twitter as it is an assertion that those are only tools. Blaming Facebook is like blaming Hodgkinson’s rifle for Wednesday’s shooting. Facebook is a tool, nothing more. It can be used to lift people up, or to tear them down. It is perhaps the most democratic, comprehensive mechanism for the sharing of information ever invented, but it is a human institution and as such, it can never be more than a mixed blessing.
Now, where Facebook replaces actual human interaction, it’s true that there can be a problem. The person calling herself Dora Alvarez above, who didn’t put a photo of herself as an avatar, isn’t functioning as a real human being; she hides from that. She eschews the accountability that comes with the humanity of communicating with others. Dora Alvarez, I would wager, would never say the things to Scalise’s face that she posts on his Facebook page. That’s cowardice, to be sure, and it is also something of a recognition that we still have some societal behavioral norms left intact. But others above are much more open about their poor character. For instance, there is this…
Malcolm Harris has actually had articles published by major left-wing outlets, as we understand. His Twitter is covered with hateful statements about Scalise being shot.
Meaning that it isn’t just the relative anonymity of social media which causes this. Social media is only a facile tool for the distribution of the contents of Malcolm Harris’ dark heart, and those like his. Social media removes the filter by which much of this dreck used to be suppressed – no newspaper of the pre-internet age would print a letter to the editor containing this kind of horror, and few radio programs would feature it either by the host or by callers. But some of it has always been there, and my theory which I expect most will agree with is there is more of it now.
People who orient their lives around politics rather than actual life are susceptible to losing their souls.
At the very beginning of my time doing The Hayride, I made it a point not to obsess about all this stuff. It’s work for me, and it’s a calling of sorts, but it’s not my life.
That’s why today, I’m writing this and unless something major happens and none of the other contributors on the site are available to handle it, I’m done. From Friday afternoon to Monday morning I generally completely disconnect from politics to recharge the batteries.
Last year I swore off the cable news shows. Once in a while, like when there is a major breaking news story, I’ll use them for information purposes, and maybe once a week I’ll tune in for a Tucker Carlson fix (though mostly I get that from YouTube rather than the boob tube), but about halfway through the GOP primary last year I simply had my fill of CNN and Fox News and tuned out.
There has been much said in the mainstream media – and even a little in the conservative media – about Fox Derangement Syndrome, the condition affecting people who religiously watch Fox News and get amped up about all the infuriating things Juan Williams or Jehmu Greene or Marie Harf say. On the Right you can deny it exists, but it does. It’s probably worse on the Left, as whatever true things you might say about Sean Hannity pale in comparison to the abject bilge Rachel Maddow puts on nightly display, and her audience – which included Hodgkinson – laps it up with equal if not more passion.
Having cable news channels on all day and all night for more than just an occasional glance to find out if anything breaking is going on isn’t healthy. Having nothing but politics in your life makes you a keyboard commando. It will make you thirst for blood and forget there are people on the other side. And it will rob you of your soul to join a political tribe.
One of the things politics as an obsession will teach you is that anger is a virtue. The people who play the political game for a living want that to be true, because anger is the best way to gin up things like online donations and voter turnout. It’s a professional virtue for political operatives, perhaps. It’s not a personal virtue for anybody. You don’t think well when you’re angry, and you make poor decisions when you’re angry. You lose some of your humanity when you’re angry. And when you’re angry all the time, you lose everything.
I drop bombs on leftists for the hatred they show of Donald Trump with a decent regularity here and at other places I write, and I don’t regret that in the least, but it’s also fair to say that people on the Right who defend Trump to the death have it almost as wrong. This guy is not worth selling your soul to. His cult isn’t worth joining. When he does well, it’s worth praising him for it. When he doesn’t, it’s OK to say so. That doesn’t make you disloyal, and it’s worth questioning what loyalty he’s owed in the first place. He’s a politician, after all. He’s a guy we hired to do a job; our support for him should be mostly restricted to that.
Treating a political party as a tribe, when many of the people you lump yourself in with are jackasses and creeps you wouldn’t socialize with otherwise, is only a viable thing to do when you hate the other side. I’m saying this, and I won’t lie – I really do hate the progressive/leftist ideology. I won’t even dignify it by calling it liberal, because there is no actual liberty in it unless to kill unborn children constitutes liberty. I see nothing but destruction of people and property in what the Left wants for this country, just like there has been destruction of people and property in the Left’s works across the globe.
But to hate the people who profess leftism? How does that bring me closer to God? The Dora Alvarez I referenced above, like the rest of the hate-filled trolls, is clearly a lost soul. These are lousy people. Does it elevate me to match their hatred with that of my own? Of course not. I’ll disagree with them as vigorously as possible in an effort to persuade those who will be persuaded; I’ll happily fight that fight. And I’ll argue all day against giving them even a shred of power over our lives. But what keeps me from descending to the level of seeking people out to personally harass and attack them is that politics is only something I do. I write about those things; I don’t let them consume me.
Politics is, after all, the art of achieving power over your fellow man for your own purposes. That’s a fundamentally base pursuit in life. It might be necessary to order a democratic society, and thus it has its uses, but it’s a dirty business most people will not uplift themselves by participating in. If you lose perspective on that, you can lose your humanity.
That’s how you end up a Dora Alvarez. Or a James Hodgkinson. And those people will be the death of us.