Bernie Isn't to Blame for DC Shooting
On Wednesday, June 14th, several GOP politicians where the targets of a shooting while practicing for a charity baseball game. It took no time at all for the opportunistic wolves dressed in pundit drag to slink out of the shadows, and claim that this was all the fault of one man: Beloved political icon Bernie Sanders.
This accusation stems from the fact that the shooter was a volunteer for the popular senator's presidential campaign. Pretty damning evidence, should you fail to think about it for a solid eight seconds or so.
Let's start with the obvious protest that's likely being levied by the right at this point in the article. No doubt, at least some people are shouting “These fuckin' libtards wanna blame Trump for firing up every klansman in America, but when it's their guy, they rush to defend him!” It's an understandable lamentation, that's also peppered with complete bullshit.
Firstly, there's the massive differences in rhetoric between Trump and Sanders. It's my belief that a man should only be accountable for what he represents, says, and does. No participation trophies here. During his campaign, Trump remarked to a massive crowd that, in the good ol' days, protesters would be “carried out on a stretcher.” Trump also famously offered to pay his supporters legal fees if they “knocked the crap” out of anyone wielding a tomato. This sets a very specific tone.
Conversely, Sanders was arrested for peacefully protesting on behalf of civil rights in the 1960's, and has spent his lengthy carrier condemning violence, recognizing the instant forfeiture of the moral high-ground that comes with every violent outburst, no matter how tempting and gratifying that release may be in the moment. This is, not only Sanders' appeal, but his intrinsic lifestyle for the last several decades. With any scrupulous evaluation, it becomes nearly impossible to conflate the message of Bernie Sanders with one of a politician that condones shootings.
This is not true of the current figure head of the Republican Party in America. Their cheaply tanned mouthpiece has used violent rhetoric and broad demonization of massive cultural pockets as political currency since his campaign began in 2015. He trades in the spewing of hatred as a matter of surviving the very tumultuous waters that he stirs to a maelstrom with his own ineptitude. The current POTUS doesn't have the patience or competency for the long game, while Sanders has leaned on his own deeply held personal values for so long, that almost none of us was aware of him until he was in his early 70's.
This fact remains true on both sides of the aisle: Violent lunatics are accountable for their own actions. I don't think many people will argue against that point. However, it is the responsibility of powerful figures to understand the ways in which their words may spur on attacks like the one we saw on Wednesday. Sanders has uttered no such words.
There's a big difference between a man who has vocally opposed politically motivated violence for the better part of half a century, and a reality show buffoon who wouldn't understand the nuanced impact of speech if it bit him in the nards. Yet these two grossly opposing political philosophies have found themselves entangled due to a convergence of unfortunate happenstance and partisan convenience. An easy example of the differences between these two men is the way that they address having supporters whom they personally oppose. While Sanders acknowledged that the shooter was apparently a volunteer on his campaign, then spoke out against him on the Senate floor, Tump said he'd never heard of David Duke.
This makes it all the more amazing that the psychotic actions of one man with a gun can indict someone who has been outspoken against the assailant's very actions for decades, while offering up an alibi for a man who would probably be in danger of springing a chemically-loaded half-chub if the victims were just a few shades darker.
While the low hanging fruit of political backlash may be a tempting target for those seeking to deracenate the momentum of the opposition, it's incumbent upon all of us to think carefully before we join in. It would be wrong to hold anyone accountable for the actions of an unvetted volunteer if it flew in the face of the person that they pretended to represent. If the message doesn't correlate the actions of a separate party, then we must keep the blame where it belongs. In this case, it's in the hands of the shooter alone, who was the antithesis of the man that he once supported. Just think about it before you spin out.