Political leaders get no free pass
There is no free pass for any political leader after the shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. So many paths converged last week (racism, humanitarianism, gun violence, immigration, and more) to make these events significant mileposts. If you channel surf as I do among the various news channels, you witnessed rhetoric ratcheting up in temperature, accusations, volume, defensiveness, and pain. People are afraid. Children are traumatized. Politicians are either weighing in with vehemence or are noted for their silence.
The nation needs to heal and there is no free pass around it. Everyone must participate, recognize responsibility (an adult perspective), and have courage to introspect enough to realize how pervasive racism is in our society. All of us are a part of this landscape. There is no free pass if we ignore it – only shame.
Legislators have a responsibility
We may ask where such anger and hate come from. How did we get here?
Jon Meacham, in Time Magazine, points out:
Donald Trump … has risen to the pinnacle (and governs while there) with divisive and incendiary rhetoric on race, ethnicity and immigration. … A President sets a tone for the broader nation and, by word and by deed, helps tailor habits of heart and of mind.
We ask a lot of our legislators. Generally, we ask that they defend the U.S. Constitution, ever mindful of the dictates of its Preamble:
We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense,promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Legislative policies are to keep us safe so we citizens can aspire to and preserve our national harmony. A politician’s life is a demanding job! When done well, a politician’s work often comes with little appreciation for the time and energy and intellect and talent it requires. Still, when policies and rhetoric threaten our lives and our future, it is justified that we demand more from those who lead.
All of us have a responsibility
Meacham’s accusation, while accurate, may seem convenient as it seems to excuse the rest of us regular citizens. It is time that we be mindful of our language and actions such that respect and a sense of calm emerges. Our nation, we the people, need to breathe and heal and adhere to our common values.
David French, in Time Magazine, explains:
To be clear, the vast majority of conservative or right-leaning Americans are not racist, hate racism, and utterly reject the ideology and language of white nationalism. … The old virus of white nationalism has been injected into our culture in a new way, and it’s imperative that we recognize its symptoms–including its language and ideas–and react with the energy and commitment to banish it back into the irrelevant margins of American life.
Emily S. Rueb and Derrick Bryson Taylor noted in The New York Times what Fox News commentator, Tucker Carlson, said after the weekend shootings:
Mr. Carlson also likened white supremacy to “the Russia hoax,” calling it a “conspiracy theory” used by Democrats to divide the country.
The white supremacy ideology and rhetoric and actions are not a hoax. It’s all a shameful reality with deep roots in this nation that calls upon all of us to be aware of the mayhem it can cause.
Anger has consequences
Anger has consequences and those consequences can be far-reaching, spreading across the nation into neighborhoods that appear friendly, harmonious, and safe. Anger, like water, seeps into our pores and spoils our thoughts and emotions. Indeed, if you’re like me, anger muddles the brain so clear thinking – critical thinking – becomes absent.
All of us must recognize the trauma and pain experienced when anger and racism attack the innocent and defenseless among us. We must recognize the consequences of policies that leave children (U.S. citizens) alone without their parents because of an ICE raid. We must collectively hear the anguish and crying of babies and children separated from their parents at our border – a violation of human decency and our values.
There is no free pass into the future
This is not a time for pride or bluster or willful ignorance. Political party loyalty is secondary to the clarion call for compassion. We cannot look the other way. It is a time for maturity and responsibility to rescue the innocent few among us and this nation as a whole.
There is no free pass for anyone, legislator and citizen alike, to shirk our duty to adhere to our national Constitutional principles and collective respect. Patriotism demands nothing less. This is especially so during such times as we now witness.
Even in this time of division, we must not reject one another as we reject the hate that instills so much fear. It is a time wherein we must listen to even those who are misguided and angry. Their voices, anguished as they are, are an alarm all of us must hear.
As our nation yearns for more harmonious times, it’s imperative that we strive to close the divides among us. New realities are thrust upon all of us and we need each other as we step into our futures – together. There is no free pass. There is only a lot of work yet to do. Let’s get to it.