A phenomenon has arisen in the United States, and that is the “politicization of tragedies.” As of late, this reality has manifested itself in the post mass-shooting debates, which take place primarily between conservative and liberal talking-heads, pundits, and of course, politicians. But there is another facet at play here, and that is the parallel or resultant phenomenon: the subsequent backlash of said politicization. Contrary to most people, what surprises and no doubt upsets me about the whole hoopla isn’t the first phenomenon. It is the second.
I do not normally find myself defending prominent contemporary American liberals against attacks from their conservative counterparts, but I suppose there’s always room for something new. In the aftermath of the vicious Sandy Hook shooting, many liberals from all walks of life and careers lambasted what they thought was the lackluster set of gun laws (or the complete lack of any set of gun laws). They wasted no time in condemning organizations like the NRA for their unyielding efforts to stymie nearly any form of gun control. In short, they argued that insufficient gun control had lead to these childrens’ deaths. A couple of months later, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank was quick to praise the government paid services that were integral in helping countless individuals in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing. Alluding to the results of sequestration, he warned us that events like the bombing should make us strongly reconsider cuts to essential government programs.
In both of these occasions, conservative talking-heads pounced on their prey, ensuring they would not miss the opportunity to derail their liberal adversaries. They accused the left of “politicizing the tragedy.” But let us think: what does that even mean? In the aftermath of both tragedies, whether it was the push for stronger gun control or the warning of rash spending cuts, liberals sincerely believed in what they were saying, arguing that perhaps, Connecticut schoolchildren could have been saved or more people in Boston would be dead or injured. Moreover, they contended that these events should serve as guides for future policy. Agree or disagree, those are legitimate opinions and deserve a platform. Politicizing a tragedy? Can’t I just explain it as giving advice so a future event doesn’t turn out as horrible as its predecessor, or doesn’t occur at all?
After the most recent mass shooting in Santa Barbara at the hands of Rodger Elliot, Fox Business weekend show “The Independents” spared no time in rounding up a panel to unload on a Washington Post op-ed written by Ann Hornaday, where she called out certain prominent individuals in the entertainment industry and their products as factors responsible for this shooting. They also responded to the onslaught of other liberal responses, many of which accused misogyny and male chauvinism as reasons for the shooting,. Again, they accused the left of politicizing tragedies, simply looking for opportunities to place the blame on “their favorite loathed political hobby horse,” in the words of one of the show’s hosts, Kmele Foster.
What is wrong with blaming someone whom you believed to be responsible for a tragedy? What is wrong with condemning something you ultimately hope to see fixed up or eliminated, in the hopes of reducing future tragedies? Nothing! There is nothing wrong when liberals do it, and there is nothing wrong when conservatives do it. Even the parents of the deceased are sometimes quick to blame political enemies, as seen by one of the fathers in the most recent Santa Barbara shooting. And yes, people place blame on their “loathed political hobby horse” because they sincerely believe that said “hobby horses” are responsible! Believe it or not, most people are sincere in their political and social beliefs, and don’t speak out after tragedies just for kicks. They want to spark what they see as a legitimate conversation.
As much as I often dislike what liberals have to say in the wake of these events, especially when they push for gun control or bemoan how racist and sexist our country is, I don’t get upset at them for simply voicing their opinion. Not only do they have every right to, they have a responsibility to, for themselves and for the people they represent. If you believe in something, then you can only do that belief justice with a firm and adamant voice. This is not to say we should ignore those who are mourning their losses; of course we should share their grief and pray with them. But for the sake of the deceased, we all have a responsibility to make this a better country immediately, and not dillydally for the sake of niceties. We are dealing with real crises, America!