02 November 2016

The blind and the elephant

My clock radio went off at 7 a.m. this morning and the NPR news led with the ambush killings of two police officers in Des Moines IA. At this time no suspect had been identified and I admit that my first, worst guess was that some disgruntled, cop-hating black man did it. No doubt many people worked on that assumption and cast fresh invective at Black Lives Matter, the Democratic party, etc., until investigators divulged that their suspect, who was captured alive later this morning, was a white man. The suspect is believed to be the same person who in mid-October filmed himself being hassled by cops outside a football stadium. A selfie shows that this person was thrown out of the stadium for waving a Confederate flag at some black spectators. The OP explains in the comment thread that he waved the flag to protest some blacks' refusal to stand for the National Anthem and the Stars and Stripes. It isn't exactly rational, but I guess it makes a sort of sense. Once all this was reported, the pendulum swung the other way, and Donald Trump, the "alt-right" and the rest of that set of usual suspects were blamed for the alleged ambushes. If the shooter is the man from the video, I can't help thinking there had to be more provocation than that to make him go after cops rather than black people. That aside, these cycles of partisan recrimination miss the real point that was valid regardless of the identity and motives of the shooter. With all the guns in this country, and all the fear of gun control, all hate is weaponized. Would so many people feel worried about a close or contested election next week if not for the guns and the possibility of people using them if their candidate loses? We spend our time demonizing opinion when most opinion would be less dangerous once disarmed, or once we didn't take our ideologies so seriously that we feel our freedom or dignity threatened whenever we don't get our way in politics. It ought to be simple: limit access to guns and neither cop-hating black nationalists nor government-hating white nationalists will be able to kill so easily. But so long as each is the other's excuse to hoard guns, this is bound to happen again.

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