Using the First Amendment Without Abusing It
Robert Sasso, Politics Contributor
Opinion - On Wednesday, America was alarmed to learn that the GOP congressional baseball practice came under fire from a man with a rifle early in the morning. In the wake of this terrible incident, many are still spinning looking what to make of the whole mess. Two brave police officers prevented the event from turning into what Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said was "sort of a killing field." He also said everyone felt as if they were "like sitting ducks" in reference to them being fully exposed on the baseball field with nowhere to hide.
The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, of Illinois has been pronounced dead. His motives seem to be political as a quick look at his Facebook page shows his membership to far left groups bent on the Resistance of the Republican Party and President Donald Trump. He also allegedly asked Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) which party was the one practicing.
The shockwaves were sent throughout the Beltway. As the Democrats began to practice, they stopped and said a prayer for the GOP as seen in the photo above. Throughout the whole day, there was a large bipartisan consensus and condemnation of the attack. In fact, after learning this man was an alleged campaign volunteer, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), came out and condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms." Every Member of Congress came out to offer prayers and well wishes on their social media.
In the end, this was obviously a political act of left-wing terrorism. This man, an avid Bernie supporter, looked to achieve a political end to his action last week. However, Bernie is completely removed from this attack and bears absolutely no responsibility.
The media cannot stop their politicization of this attack. The New York Times ran an editorial on the same day where they drew the parallel to the 2011 shooting of then Rep. Gabby Giffords in which they once again blamed former Gov. Sarah Palin. This is a provably false lie as the evidence is clear that he was a liberal, as written in the New York Times back in 2011. While the nation tries to wrap their collective heads around this issue, the most prominent newspaper in America has decided to use this as a political launching board to blame the right. However, as much condemnation has come down on them, David French makes the case this is borderline libelous.
It does have the effect of letting anyone say anything in a political sense unless a clear threat to someone's life is at risk. This allows pages like Occupy Democrats to call Republicans Nazis, have Kathy Griffin hold a beheaded Trump head, and a whole litany of statements that go almost uncontested by the Mainstream Media. On the other hand, the First Amendment does not cause these attacks to happen because in a liberal democracy it is the duty of its citizens to act in a civil manner toward one another and not to infringe upon their neighbors' certain inalienable rights. While the latter is the objective, it is not always reality.
Moving forward where do we go? Having the government place any restriction on the First Amendment is a slippery slope to curb any unwanted political speech. As mentioned earlier, we live in a liberal democracy, and we have to police our own speech to remove the vitriolic tone of our current political speech. This does not mean our politics need to have less passion. Everyone who is a “high information voter,” for lack of a better term, passion in politics frequently runs high. Many citizens do not mind the trenches of tough political debate and the marketplace of ideas. To move forward we cannot continue to treat fellow Americans like the enemy. Disagreeing with someone on environmental policy does not mean they want the destruction of the earth. Just because the President is not of your party does not mean you should portray him as Julius Caesar in a Shakespearean play. The First Amendment allows an almost endless variety of speech, but it does not mean Americans should always test and explore the boundaries of said speech. Sometimes personal restraint is needed to know when speech can go too far in the court of public opinion.
Do these things have any bearing on whether the attack would have occurred? Most likely not at all. However, both sides of the aisle do, to an extremely small extent, have hardened radicals that will use political violence to further their agenda. Most people are most likely mentally ill at this point. Americans far and wide without a doubt do not believe in political violence. Nevertheless, as engaged citizens in the public dialogue, we must end the constant us vs. them mentality and move towards us vs. the issue. This change in debate style will allow everyone to put down their anger and enter the arena of debate looking to discuss issues not name calling and identity politics. The continued poisoning and toxicity of the political climate is not currently causing this attacks, but the destruction of decorum in politics will lead Americans down a dangerous road.
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