Thursday, June 16, 2016

It's so long since I've posted on this blog that I've practically forgotten how.

Still, here I go.

Today, British Member of Parliament Jo Cox was attacked and murdered as she met with constituents in West Yorkshire. Bystanders reportedly heard the attacker, a middle-aged white man, shout "Britain First!" as he attacked her first with a knife (as a man from a nearby dry cleaners fought to stop him) and then with a gun. He then also attacked a 77-year-old man, who was taken to hospital but is reportedly not severely injured. Jo Cox died at the scene.

Several thoughts come to mind.

1) Political violence has come to the West. If early reports are correct, then the attacker justified himself with his cry of "Britain First!"  Britain First is the name of a right-wing party, Christian and nationalist, that holds demonstrations around or even invades mosques. Party leader Paul Golding  condemned the attack, releasing a video statement calling it a "damned right despicable act of criminality," according to the Guardian.

Of course, we don't know yet whether the shooter actually believed he was making a political statement. Jo Cox was known as an advocate of Syrian civilians, and the shooter may have considered her worthy of assassination on those grounds, but we don't know yet. If so, is he a representative of radical Christian extremism? Was Robert Lewis Dear, who shot twelve people outside a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs last fall, also a representative of radical Christian extremism?

2) Even strong gun laws didn't prevent this gun murder. On the other hand, with his gun, which according to a bystander looked "old-fashioned," even "home-made," the shooter only managed to kill one person, not the six Jared Loughner shot with a semi-automatic pistol when attacking Gabby Giffords in 2011, or the 49 killed by Omar Mateen with a semi-automatic pistol and semi-automatic rifle in the Pulse nightclub.

3) There's plenty of hatred to go around. A self-styled pastor from Sacramento preached to his congregation on Saturday that no Christian should feel sad about the deaths of the "sodomites" in Orlando. "I think it's great," he said. "I think it helps society. . . . The tragedy is that more of them didn't die." This from a man who considers himself Christian.

What's my point? I believe the line that divides us from the anarchy and horror of people routinely murdering one another for their beliefs and words is thinner than we think. We can't have armed guards for every situation, nor can we reasonably hope or advocate (with the NRA) that every person will be armed and trained for self-defense. No, we have to ratchet down our rhetoric by speaking with respect of our opponents, make violence less efficient by rendering semi-automatic weapons harder to get, and assure every would-be shooter that their name will be forgotten and their cause harmed by any violent action they take.

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