Reactionaries howl in outrage at Kathy Griffin’s photo of the comedienne holding a faux severed, bloody head of the president and against Shakespeare in the Park’s modern dress version of Julius Caesar, wherein the assassinated emperor is a Trump look-alike. Of course, these condemnations of exercises in free expression are spewed by the same cry babies waging holy war against whatever they perceive as “political correctness.” Trump and his minions denounce efforts to protect religious, ethnic and LGBTQ minorities from public insults and hate speech as infringements on their First Amendment right – but cry bloody murder whenever their sacred cows are mocked and raked over the coals.
But like Brutus’ blade, they do have a point. Griffin’s Robespierre-like picture and the Public Theater’s staged bloodletting in Manhattan’s Central Park are emanations of the collective unconscious. They are manifestations of the zeitgeist, giving form to the repressed desires of a mass id enraged by a presidency which only received about a quarter of the vote from those eligible to go to the polls and its pursuit of unpopular goals that fly in the face of public opinion.
In turn, these photographic, theatrical, etc., iterations serve to encourage the most infuriated among us who are driven to distraction by Washington’s corruption to contemplate acting out against the objects of scorn. After all, we live in a culture awash in violence, where the use of force is regularly depicted as the way to solve social problems – from Washington’s foreign policy to pop culture. Violence has always been as American as apple pie.
On the morning of June 14, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson – who media reports describe as a sort of “Bernie Bro” with a social media record of anti-GOP and anti-Trump rants – took drastic action. After reportedly confirming that the uniformed players practicing on a diamond in Alexandria, Virginia belonged to a Republican Party team, Hodgkinson opened fire on the congressional baseball players. According to an MSNBC report, this was the 154th mass shooting so far this year. After all, gunplay is America’s pastime.
Among those shot was Steve Scalise (as of this writing the 51-year-old is in critical condition). Who is he? The GOP’s third highest ranking member of the House of Representatives has represented Louisiana’s 1st District since 2008. During the 113th Congress, the House Majority Whip served as chairman for the Republican Study Committee, the conservative House caucus. He also brags about earning “an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.” According to http://scalise.house.gov/, Scalise is:
“A strong supporter of the Second Amendment, Scalise has sponsored and cosponsored legislation protecting citizens’ right to keep and bear arms. In the 112th Congress, Scalise introduced H.R. 58, the Firearms Interstate Commerce Reform Act, which improves law-abiding citizens’ ability to purchase firearms. The bills Scalise has recently cosponsored include H.R.645, a bill to restore Second Amendment rights in the District of Columbia and the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, H.R.822, which would ensure national reciprocity for concealed carry permit holders. Congressman Scalise’s pro-gun stance has earned him an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association. A member of the Congressional Second Amendment Task Force, Congressman Steve Scalise will continue fighting to protect every citizen’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.”
Of course, it goes without saying that the “pro-gun” Scalise – who supported unfettered access to lethal firearms, including unhinged individuals like Hodgkinson’s “right to keep and bear arms” – is, naturally, likewise a “family values” politician who couches anti-LGBTQ and his “100% pro-life voting record” in sanctimonious rhetoric. (If you oppose limits on guns and abortion, when it comes to “life,” it’s like comedy – it’s all in the timing. After all, WWJS – Who Would Jesus Shoot?) Scalise’s “traditional family values” included voting against reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013. According to his website:
“Protecting the Sanctity of Marriage
“Congressman Scalise has worked diligently throughout his career to protect traditional marriage. Scalise has co-sponsored legislation to amend the Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. As a member of the Louisiana State Legislature, Congressman Scalise authored a similar amendment to the Louisiana Constitution that protects traditional marriage.”
The presumably taxpayer-funded website goes on to say:
“Protecting the Lives of the Unborn
“Congressman Scalise believes that human life begins at conception and is fighting to protect the rights of the unborn. Scalise has co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 3), the Protect Life Act (H.R. 358), and the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act (H.R. 217), all legislation supported by the National Right to Life Committee. Congressman Scalise has a 100% pro-life voting record with the Louisiana Right to Life Federation and will continue to fight for the rights of the unborn.”
Washington’s response to the shooting of Scalise and three others was just as predictable as the House Majority Whip’s “pro-gun” and “family values” record – discussing more security for members of Congress. Like the endless so-called “war on terror” (BTW, how’s that worked out?), the kneejerk reaction is to spend more money to further militarize a situation. As if this will prevent the disgruntled Hodgkinsons (who died in the shootout) of the world from lashing out in fury at those they perceive as causing their misery.
Since Scalise appears to wrap himself in “Christian” values (although, oddly, Christ never spoke about same sex marriage or abortion) it seems fair to fair to refer to some scripture here. To paraphrase Jesus in Matthew 26:52: “Those who live by the gun will die by the gun.”
Furthermore, to paraphrase Paul the Apostle in Galatians 6:7-9: “Ye shall reap what ye shall vote.” If you regard this to be harsh or unfair, consider what Hodgkinson himself proclaimed to his Republican representative in Congress in one of the 10 messages he sent in the last year to Representative Mike Bost of Illinois’s 12th congressional district: “If you vote for this, we’ll remember you.” Apparently, Hodgkinson remembered Scalise.
If one truly wants to stop possible future attacks on our politicians, all of the security in the world won’t ensure their safety, just as the Muslim travel ban Scalise backed didn’t protect him from the armed, dangerous – and American – Hodgkinson. A far more effective way to save policymakers from being in harm’s way is for them to simply stop voting for unjust laws that stir deep enmity and resentment (especially in a country drowning in guns). But if lawmakers continue to back unfair policies, as the Book of Hosea put it, “They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind.”