by Jason Frerichs
By now nearly everyone has heard that Republican Congressman Steve Scalise was shot by James T. Hodgkinson of Illinois. It’s only been six days since our last mass shooting. Today we got three because another mass shooting with 4 deaths happened at a UPS facility in San Francisco. The third shooting occurred outside the Barclays Center in New York City. The political shooting likely won’t be called a mass shooting because, thankfully, nobody died except for the shooter. That said, Hodgkins fired over 100 rounds and hit 5 targets. He was an active supporter of Bernie Sanders and was a campaign volunteer in the Quad Cities. He was also a supporter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Many of my friends had Facebook friends in common with the shooter, myself included. I was very active in the Bernie Sanders campaign and met so many incredibly talented and peaceful people along the way that they actually inspired me even more than Bernie himself. It’s a terrible feeling when someone from your own group commits a horrific and disgusting act. Your first reaction is #NotAllBernieSupporters. I’d like to think that reasonable people will not think that Bernie supporters are a bunch of violent people. Unfortunately, the US is not a reasonable country; not when gun violence is a daily occurrence and there are 3 mass shootings in six days.
Because the US is not a reasonable nation, we are already starting to see cheap political hacks using the shootings to push their politically motivated agenda. White supremacist Steve King has already spoken to the Washington Examiner and claimed that violence in the US is “coming from the left.” Ammosexuals will argue that these Congressmen should have been armed while playing baseball. I’m not going to give them page views by posting links to them because we already know their playbook. Bernie supporters and Democratic Socialists are going to be painted as violent moochers who just want free stuff and are willing to kill to get it. Democratic Socialists will be painted as being out to undermine our great capitalist system and will kill to do it. They will be linked to Stalin and other failed communist experiments because their readers aren’t interested in nuance and learning that there is a huge difference between Communism and Democratic Socialism. We know this will happen because our side does it too. Remember Trump supporter Scott Michael Greene who shot two police officers in Urbandale, IA? Trump supporters were all painted as violent thugs out to shoot the police. What these two incidents show is that every well-known politician has some supporters who have the capacity to commit extreme violence.
As I was trying to process this I came across a Facebook post from my friend Lindsey Ellickson. It read, “Two mass shootings, one legally qualified as one, the other does not because not enough people have died. And what we’ll probably do is talk for a few days about the lack of mental health care in this country, insinuating that both killers were clearly mentally ill -something we have no evidence of and something that only further stigmatizes mental illness. We will ignore the fact that this country is the only developed nation that consistently has this problem. We’ll move on, and we’ll have another within a week. I hope Scalise and his aides has a full recovery. I hope for some peace for the families who lost loved ones in California. I hope I can live in a country too where this isn’t normal. Before today it had only been 6 days since our last mass shooting.” Lindsey summed my feelings exactly.
My friend Adam Wright posted, “One of the reasons that mental illness is so stigmatized is the fact that we only seem to hear about it whenever somebody commits an act like this. That being said, there are some people that are a danger to themselves or society. On the other hand, we need to also include those stories of those that we love and admire who suffer from a mental health condition in our news coverage and in our conversation. This article about Dale Chihuly is one example.”
What, if anything, is going to be done in response to either of today’s mass shootings? Given that past actions are the best predictor of future actions, one can logically conclude that nothing of substance is going to be done to prevent future mass shootings. The talking heads on the cable networks will spend the next week rehashing every detail of the shooting because if it bleeds, it leads. The right-leaning talking heads and the left-leaning talking heads will snipe back and forth while their supporters gleefully retweet selected “gotcha” quotes. “Thoughts and prayers” will be offered on the various social media platforms. Trump will tweet something stupid drawing righteous indignation from the left while his administration continues screwing over the working class. They will revel in all the attention the complicit media networks will bring to these incidents because then can fly under the radar while everyone else is distracted. Rinse, recycle, and repeat. I’m 90% sure this is how it’s going to happen. It’s actually 100% but I don’t want to come across as cynical.
What’s the moral of this story? We reap what we sow when we allow just about anyone to have unfettered access to a weapon that can rapidly fire 100 rounds. That we still can’t disagree with each other without being violent. That most of our elected officials don’t have the political courage to take definitive steps to fix the problem. Given the massive inequality that is intentionally built into the system, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more incidents like this happening. We’ll just lurch on until the next shooting or the next outrage. Like I said, we reap what we sow.
Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus