It was fitting that baseball, America’s former national pastime, provided the backdrop for the latest controversy in America’s current national pastime – arguing about politics and gun violence. When James Hodgekinson entered a Republican baseball practice with a kill list in his pocket, you can be sure the media was ready to pounce like an Instagram model at the NBA draft. One can only guess at the disappointment in newsrooms when they found out the shooter committed his crime in the name of the viewpoint they espoused each night.
The media had just got done blaming the Portland stabbing on right wing hate rhetoric, even though the stabber was a Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders supporter. Now, after a Republican was attacked by an out-and-proud Democrat, the media is conveniently done with pointing fingers and is instead calling for civility on both sides – though some are predictably still blaming it on Trump for creating the divisiveness (before Trump came along, Democrats and Republicans got along so well no one could even tell them apart – it was like the difference between “who” and “whom”.)
But even though the latest political shooting was perpetrated by a Democrat, the Republicans should not take this as a time to gloat or blame their counterparts across the aisle. Instead they should simply acknowledge that some people are mentally ill, and extend liberals the same “it’s not your fault” hug that should’ve given to Republicans after the Portland stabbing. While these attackers claim they are acting in the name of their political purpose, we must all admit that they are just crazy, broken people.
These assailants are not shooting others because of a well defined ideology, they are killing because their mind is weak mush. If Hodgekinson hadn’t loved MSNBC so much, he probably would’ve still opened fire for some other maniacal reason. President Reagan was almost assassinated because the perpetrator tried to get the attention of Jodie Foster, who, if we’re being honest, isn’t even that cute and definitely isn’t into men. The motive of mass shooters is often similarly difficult to parse.
Certainly there are types of discourse which draw more lunatics than others. It should not be a shock that the shooter cited his viewing of The Rachel Maddow Show, rather than say, reading The New Republic. But we should still realize that even the most controversial American media programs do not propagate violence at the same level as Islam. 150,000 civilians are not trapped because an army of Tucker Carlson Tonight viewers are holding them hostage.
To be sure, Hodgekinson’s mental illness was not as clear as the Portland stabber’s. He was not walking around wearing a cape. Hodgekinson had a wife. He had a job as a home inspector. He had taken some college classes and often wrote pro-Democrat letters to the editor. He also had a friend who wanted everyone to know that Hodgekinson was “not evil.”
“I guess I just want to let people know that he’s not evil,” Walsh said outside Hodgkinson’s home in Belleville. “I guess he was tired of some of the politics going on. Like in this state, we have politicians collecting a check and doing absolutely nothing for us.”
Hodgekinson probably did seem nice if he didn’t shoot you, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t evil. He got caught dragging his grandniece out of a neighbor’s house by her hair. He pulled her out of a car by cutting her seatbelt with a knife. He subsequently choked her and hit her boyfriend in the face with the butt of a shotgun. His grandniece ultimately killed herself. Another one of Hodgekinson’s foster kids killed herself by lighting herself on fire with gasoline.
Hodgekinson was “not evil” in the sense that no human being is evil. But if Starbucks were preparing drinks for customers in the order of least to most evil, it would be a very long time before the barista shouted out “frappuccino for Hodgekinson.”
But despite his horrific actions, Hodgekinson evaded jail time. He was even allowed to become a foster parent. Which necessitates the obvious question – how can the government ever be trusted to stop people like him from committing mass shootings when public officials are so inept they are paying people like him to raise children! I realize the Gotham City police department left something to be desired, but at the very least they weren’t giving the Joker cash to foster neglected youth.
Make no mistake – the shooting of elected officials is a tragedy. Steps should be taken to figure out how to prevent similar attacks in the future. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, it makes sense to take a step back and realize that perhaps not all tragedies are preventable or blamable. There is evil in the world. It is entirely possible that a certain amount of tragedy is baked into our DNA, or perhaps more accurately, tragedy will always exist due to a certain number of humans having DNA that is improperly baked.