Floyd Lee Corkins walked into the offices of the Family Research Council after seeing it listed as an anti-gay hate group on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website. The Family Research Council is a pro-Christian, pro-family organization, which makes it a hate site to the left. Corkins intended to kill the employees and stuff their mouths with Chick-Fil-A sandwiches, another organization he considered bigoted. Thanks to a security guard, he never made it through the door.
James Hodgkinson, also a fan of the Southern Poverty Law Center, stewed in leftwing rhetoric. Hearing leftwing pundits and Democrat leaders claim Republicans really want people to die, really want to destroy the planet, and really helped the Russians take over our republic, he decided to act. In a small blessing, he was a terrible shot. But he tried.
Neither the Southern Poverty Law Center or any other organization or individual is to blame for the actions of these nuts. But rhetoric is designed to incite and mobilize. The Southern Poverty Law Center labels Christian groups hate groups to stir up their donors and seem useful. Pundits on MSNBC and Democrat congressional leaders say the GOP wants to kill everyone and destroy the planet to keep their leftwing base riled up. None of them do it to inspire insane people to do insane things.
Eric Trump saying of Democrats, “they’re not even people,” is no more a call to condone violence than Barack Obama telling his supporters to take guns to knife fights. We have nasty political rhetoric in this country and we have had it consistently for more than 240 years. There is something different now though and this is a turning point.
Several times since the election I have noted that Democrat rhetoric, if they really believed it, would lead to violence. One cannot continually say Republicans repealing Obamacare will kill people without taking action to stop them or inspiring others to stop them. While rhetoric does not necessarily lead to violence and has rarely led to violence in this country, something now is fundamentally different from the past.
Now, we are a more tribal country. Large segments of the left and growing segments of the right no longer have church communities calling them to their better angels. People are now less likely to know their neighbors than in the past. And instead of interacting in their real communities, they have turned inward and built digital communities of fellow travelers.
It is now possible for a person to go an entire day and never knowingly encounter someone who thinks at all differently. We can self-select websites to read, television channels to watch, and radio stations and podcasts to listen to. We never have to be troubled with the other. As we encounter the other less and less, we see them as alien. As we see them as alien it becomes easier to see them as less than ourselves. It becomes not only easier to then view them as the enemy, but also easier to cheer on violence against the other.
After James Hodgkinson fired shots as Republican congressmen, a number of people with blue checkmarks on social media (a status denoting someone of note) began justifying Hodgkinson’s attack. One noted the GOP had it coming. Another said it could have been self defense if Hodgkinson was losing his healthcare. Still others were upset Hodgkinson had not actually killed any Republicans.
When you create your own world instead of living in the world God created for you, you can make it in your own image. Soon you can believe the worst about others when those you have allowed into your world agree. The only way to back away from this instead of falling over the precipice is for Democrats, Republicans, and the media to acknowledge that the other side really does not want you dead. But there is too much invested in believing otherwise.