The storming of the Capitol was the darkest day in American history since 9/11 and was the culmination of a rapidly growing sense of mistrust amongst the American people, the media that guides them, and their elected officials. It was the boiling point of a pot filled with water, finally overflowing when it appeared all other remedies were unattainable.
Unfortunately, the reaction to this disturbing event made everything drastically worse. Even more tragically, much of the American people’s conversation surrounding the news is heavily influenced by those they turn to in the media. As a result, the empty pot of once-boiling water began to refill as people repeated what they saw on Twitter and news networks.
We must come together and understand that, in order to progress, a set of standards must be applied to all situations, regardless of sympathy towards a cause. Not only should we have a standard, but the rational standard should be: There’s a clear difference between irresponsible rhetoric posed by individuals and rhetoric that is directly responsible for the events that follow. There’s a clear difference between raising the temperature and being the person responsible for the actions of others. Violence of any kind is unjustifiable, no matter the motivation.
We live in a country where you have the right to say almost anything, but, at the same time, people have independent agency over themselves. They are responsible for their own actions, regardless of what has been said to them. We cannot allow our leaders, those sworn in to protect our nation, to run roughshod over these standards. And most importantly, we cannot only call them out when we deem it to be in alignment with our political preferences.
Trump’s rhetoric since the Election, up until the day of the Capitol riots, was incredibly irresponsible. The leader of the free world should not be spreading mistrust in a democracy without staunch evidence.
He had every right to explore legal pathways to winning reelection, something he attempted and failed to do in courts across America. Once this was clear, he was out of options and the process must move on, something Mitch McConnell pointed out.
Instead, Trump continued to raise the temperature, turning on anyone who stood in his way. This was evident in regards to his unfair criticisms of Vice President Pence and his SCOTUS appointees hours before the ensuing violence. Although Trump was responsible for raising the temperature to an unhealthy level, he was, arguably, not responsible for what followed.
The same standard should be applied to political leaders across the board. For years, President Obama crept into dangerous rhetoric about systemic racism in the US and then defended BLM “protests” which were often riots, such as the violence that occurred in Ferguson, even after multiple DOJ investigations into the shooting of Michael Brown found the officer involved did not commit a crime. Obama condemned police officers for being part of a much larger American system actively attempting to keep people down on the basis of race. Yet, numerous academic studies on the issue, including a Harvard study about policing disparities authored by Roland Fryer, pointed to the contrary.
Years of irresponsible rhetoric by President Obama culminated in the 2016 Dallas Sniper Attack, where Micah Johnson carried out an ambush on police officers protecting the rights of Dallas citizens to peacefully protest, resulting in over fourteen casualties. His motive? Anger he believed to be justified because of his assumption that any disparity in policing can be single-handedly chalked up to systemic racism.
Obama was not responsible for the actions taken by Johnson, but his rhetoric played a role in raising the temperature until the water boiled over.
A year later, James Hodgkinson approached a Congressional Baseball Practice and opened fire, shooting into a crowd of Republican Congressmen. As details emerged, CNN reported Hodgkinson was an advocate for Bernie Sanders on social media and enjoyed listening to talk shows such as “Real Time with Bill Maher” and “The Rachel Maddow Show.” He was also a member of several Facebook groups, including one called “Terminate the Republican Party” and posted on March 22: “It’s time to destroy Trump and Co.”
Despite all of this, were Maddow or Maher or even Sanders responsible for Hodgkinson’s actions? Absolutely not.
Unless someone directly calls for people to commit acts of violence, they are not to blame for the actions of others. However, they are responsible for raising the temperature. If we applied the same standard to everyone, with little room for loopholes, maybe our leaders would condemn all violence, while also thinking twice about their rhetoric and its impact. We could, instead, tie blame to actions and stop cherry-picking what violence is right and wrong. And maybe our nation could begin to finally lower its temperature.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.