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Reaping and sowing

Jun 16, 2017 - By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

Making quick politics out of the shooting of a congressman

It sounds as if people on both sides of the political aisle are, for the most part, in agreement that the Republican congressman who blamed Wednesday's shooting of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise on flaming rhetoric from Democrats ought not to have said it.

Nancy Pelosi called it unforgivable. Paul Ryan called it unfortunate.

That display by the Speaker of the House and the House Minority Leader of something resembling unity is appreciated, even if it only lasts for a day or two.

Rep. Steve King became a convenient target after he mouthed off, one reason being that the mass shootings in this country in the 21st century that can be traced to domestic political belief (and not all of them can) have been perpetrated predominantly by those more likely to be labeled conservatives than liberals.

Beyond that, thank goodness, was a general feeling among sensible people that trying immediately to score political points from Scalise's shooting (King hurried to the suburban baseball field where it happened and got himself on camera right away), isn't a good thing to do. That goes for Dems and GOP alike.

So, the nation can be grateful for a couple of things. First, the congressman, although wounded seriously, is expected to recover more or less fully.

This was a shooting, but not a homicide in the nature of the Rep. Gabby Giffords incident in 2011, when 24 people were shot, six of them fatally. (Let's not draw too many comparisons between the Giffords and Scalise events, for political purposes or any others.)

This was bad, but it could have been much worse. Quick, heroic actions by Capitol Police and congressional colleagues at the scene prevented a catastrophe.

Second, there is a something of a bipartisan show of support, at least temporarily, in condemning the remarks made by the other congressman who said it's Democrats' fault that Scalise was shot.

Well and good. But while those sentiments are fresh in our minds, and while more of us than usual seem to be willing to think about them during these sensitive few days following the congressman's shooting, let's think about one more thing as well.

For whatever reason, this country seems cracked right down the middle a lot of the time. We all know someone with whom it has become very difficult to have a conversation, because this person always steers that conversation toward political beliefs. As if that were the only thing that mattered. As if the things we do and see and experience together in our small community matter only through the lenses and filters of conservative versus liberal. As if no one registered as a Republican could ever believe something that wasn't archly conservative. As if no one who is a Democrat would dare agree with even one sentence spoken on Fox News.

This doesn't seem to be a very nice way to live. Yet those who insist on living that way must see some reward in it. Perhaps it is entertainment, perhaps it is rooted more deeply. Either way, those who don't want everything to turn into a political fight can come to feel pretty exhausted by the non-stop bicker.

So, let's congratulate ourselves for agreeing this week to criticize the congressman who blamed Democrats and their anti-Trump feelings for the shooting of Steve Scalise. It's true that he shouldn't have taken his remarks so far.

But, while we're at it, we also might need to acknowledge our roles in creating the civic climate that led him to believe saying what he said would be acceptable.

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