“You used to say live and let live. You know you did, you know you did, you know you did. But if this ever changing world in which we live in makes you give in or cry. Say live and let die.” — Paul McCartney
As we heard about another mass shooting in the news, my thoughts immediately went to a Joy Reid rant on TikTok. Now, I’m a bit old, so TikTok is not necessarily my thing, but the sentiment seemed so accurate that I couldn’t help but share it.
For those of you that haven’t followed the news, the latest tragedy involves a LGTBQ club in Colorado Springs. As of the latest reporting, five have died with over two dozen being injured. It might have been more on both fronts if not for the heroic efforts of some inside the club.
I should point out that there are plenty of people I know that are conservative and good, decent people. This turns into one of those logical statements that we used to get on the SAT or GRE. Not every conservative is an asshole and I would surmise that most conservatives aren’t assholes. Yet, when you picture an asshole in your head you probably see a conservative.
Maybe that isn’t fair. I’m willing to concede that some liberals could be assholes. Heck, some people might think I’m an asshole. However, let’s consider the campaign we just finished. Crime seemed to be the number one issue on the ballot for them. Yet, whether violent crime really is as pressing an issue is open to considerable debate.
The Democratic brain and the Republican brain work differently. When you say violent crime, the images that pop into our head are vastly different. For many conservatives, violent crime is a dog whistle that point to certain people committing those crimes. The Colorado Springs shooting involved a young white male. Most of these mass shootings involve young white males. So, there is some cognitive dissonance going on here. There is a difference between who we think is dangerous and who might actually be more dangerous.
It would be irresponsible of me to claim that this shooter (I will not publish his name) was somehow radicalized by the rhetoric on the right. We know that was true in the El Paso mass shooting. Yet, it isn’t true all of the time. It isn’t true that they are ALWAYS white males, but that seems to be a good rule of thumb.
I suppose I risk the possibility of becoming the old man sitting in his lawn chair and shaking his fists at the neighborhood kids playing in the street. However, I don’t remember this many zealots actually representing us in government when I was younger. The inflammatory rhetoric has an effect. It ramps up the tension and widens the divide. It creates the irrational view that the other side aren’t real Americans or even real people. It becomes easier to depersonalize and shuts off our compassion when tragedy befalls us. We become numb.
I wish I had some answers for everyone. I wish I could simply wave a magic wand and make it all go away. Maybe it starts with each of us individually. Maybe each of us can make a small contribution to returning our discourse into something resembling civility. Short of that then it becomes simply a live and let die world.