As the small rural Texas town of Sutherland Springs grieves the loss of 26 of its residents, the cage match that has come to dominate mainstream political discourse could not spare a moment of reflection. While the bodies were still warm, the maimed were in surgery and families were buying caskets, social media was awash with a brutish sort of political football. Half-baked policy prescriptions, profanity-laced tirades and false allegations of complicity are part and parcel of a culture that would much rather parade around in its own faux-virtue than just shut up, if only for a moment, and let families grieve.
Americans who disagree with me about the endemic problems of violence within certain strains of Islam do not root for a jihadist to go on a killing spree in an Orlando nightclub. There were likewise no conservatives cheering on Sunday when small children were being sniped under the pews in a Baptist church service.
Senator Chuck Schumer, who immediately called for gun control following the Vegas attack, bemoaned questions about the Diversity Visa Lottery Program that he had helped spawn in the wake of the deadly rampage of one of the lottery’s “winners,” lamented his critics by saying “I guess it’s not too soon to politicize a tragedy.” See, it’s only too soon when an Islamist kills innocent civilians, but it’s never too soon to confiscate weapons from law-abiding citizens. As Chuck Todd said earlier this year on “Meet the Press” following the Vegas massacre: “If we wait until cooler heads prevail, we never talk about it.” While calm and rational discussion does have a way of derailing otherwise irrelevant legislative solutions that wouldn’t have done anything to prevent the preceding tragedy, it is remarkable that when someone yells “Allahu Akbar” and kills scores of innocents, it’s only acceptable to talk about hypothetical instances of Islamophobia by the unwashed masses of Americans too dumb to be as tolerant as the chattering class that sneers down its nose at them.
A solution to avoid this obviously partisan outrage? Wait until the dead have been buried and the maimed are out of surgery before you try to use emotion to influence a seismic change in national policy.
The rush to score cheap political points against one’s ideological opponents in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy has to be the most telling sign of the toxicity of the current political moment. Actor Wil Wheaton had a fairly typical take on Twitter Sunday night in a response to Speaker Paul Ryan’s offered condolences: “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive, you worthless sack of s—.” Similarly, President Trump took the low road following the Manhattan Islamist attack, comporting Senator Schumer with some sort of moral culpability for the radical’s actions. Let these families grieve — whether they be victims of a firearm wielding assailant or a jihadi seeking to implement a global caliphate — and save the partisan bickering until “cooler heads” can truly prevail.