A test of the nation’s sanity
James T. Hodgkinson wanted to know whether the members of Congress practicing baseball at a field in Alexandria, Va., were Republicans or Democrats, according to multiple media reports. Told they were GOP lawmakers, Hodgkinson walked back to his car.
He retrieved a rifle and opened fire.
Capitol Police officers at the scene Wednesday morning returned fire, wounding Hodgkinson. The 66-year-old Illinois man later died at a hospital.
Before Hodgkinson was brought down, he wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., a congressional aide, another man and at least one police officer.
Investigators may get some clues as to Hodgkinson’s motivation by talking to family members and others who knew him. But the fact he targeted Republican members of Congress suggests strongly that he was upset with them — and that he believed killing some of them was an appropriate reaction to his displeasure.
In a nation of more than 325 million people, it is inevitable that a substantial number will be mentally unbalanced enough to commit violent acts for any number of reasons.
It is worth asking whether the hysteria over Republican President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers played a role in Hodgkinson’s shooting spree.
That frenzy has reached the level that a New York City drama group is staging a production of “Julius Caesar” in which the lead character is played by an actor dressed and made up to resemble Trump. In the play, he is assassinated.
Defenders of the production say they have a First Amendment right to express their anger at Trump that way. They do. But legal sometimes is not right. Can you imagine the outrage that would have ensued had the actor resembled former President Barack Obama?
Likewise, what if entertainer Kathy Griffin had posted an internet video showing her holding up the likeness of the bloody, decapitated head of Obama?
Our very freedom to speak our minds in this country means our disagreements are very public.
But there is a difference between questioning someone’s policies and insisting they are evil and need to be stopped. The latter is an invitation to people like Hodgkinson to take matters into their own hands through violence.
Surely we as a nation can resolve our differences without sinking to that level.