C.S. Lewis liked to say that when you allow first things to be first, second things can be second. But when you make something secondary into something primary, everything goes to pieces. Two examples: First is the call to boycott Chick-fil-a, which we discussed here a few hours back. Second, the politicization of the Dark Knight Rises shooting.
Matthew Franck at First Things writes:
Every observer of the American political scene could predict that in the hours after yesterday senseless massacre in Aurora, Colorado, two topics would surface. Some would call attention to the failures in our approach to mental illness in recent decades–the assumption being that only a kind of madness, not garden-variety evil intent, could produce such an action as the slaughter and wounding of scores of innocents in a movie theater. Others–far more numerous in the ranks of liberal mainstream journalists–would renew the call for “gun control” of various kinds focusing on the murderous means available to the shooter to attain his end. And so it proved, as a glance at the morning papers and prominent news sites and television shows will bear out.
But the first commentator I know of who openly turned to the question of the political advantage that might be gained out of the Aurora shootings was Nate Cohn of The New Republic. Less than a full day passed before he posted “Taking On Assault Weapons Could Be a Political Winner for Obama” at TNR. This is the kind of thing that makes ordinary, decent people hear the phrase “writer for a political magazine” and think “bottom-feeder.” Nice work, Nate.
I’m not sure what to say about the mass murder at the Batman screening. Until we know what motivated the gunman, it’s unwise to draw firm conclusions. Depressingly, people will take up their customary positions. Once we have more solid information, I’ll have more to say. However, I welcome your observations and commentary in the comments thread.
UPDATE: Good grief:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Friday that the shootings that took place in an Aurora, Colo. movie theater hours earlier were a result of “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs” and questioned why nobody else in the theater had a gun to take down the shooter.
During a radio interview on The Heritage Foundation’s “Istook Live!” show, Gohmert was asked why he believes such senseless acts of violence take place. Gohmert responded by talking about the weakening of Christian values in the country.
“You know what really gets me, as a Christian, is to see the ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs, and then some senseless crazy act of a derelict takes place,” Gohmert said.
Shut up, man. Just shut up. The blood of victims can’t even dry before everyone takes up their culture-war positions, and starts shooting off their mouths. I’m sure loudmouths on the left are doing it too.
Asawin Suebsaeng at Mother Jones points to a few other examples:
At least 12 people were killed in a mass shooting at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. The name of the suspected gunman, now in custody, is James E. Holmes. What we know about him this morning: He’s a white male, mid-20s, with an apartment in Aurora.
Here’s Matt Drudge tweeting a thinly sourced Joel Pollak report at Breitbart.com:
The James Holmes tracked down by Breitbart.com is 25 years old and registered at an address in La Plata County—roughly a six-hour drive from the alleged shooter’s apartment, according to Google Maps.
And now, here’s ABC News’ Brian Ross earlier today, irresponsibly speculating on the shooter’s possible Tea Party link (ABC later withdrew the claim and apologized):
There are a lot of people in Denver and Aurora with the legal name of James/Jim Holmes.
Dozens of people are injured. At least 12 people are dead. The body count could rise. Even the 2012 attack dogs are taking a siesta from the partisan mudslinging in the wake of the tragedy. If you’re going to publish a story about an alleged mass murderer’s politics, you had better get it right.
At risk of being called pedantic, I’d like to suggest that when something like this happens it might be wise to take a moment or two of silence before diving once more into the breach of whatever faddish culture war topic we want to debate. The first thing ought to be simply having enough humanity – and perhaps enough humility – to sit and mourn with those who mourn.
My reason for citing the Lewis quote above is that partisan politics ought to be understood as a secondary thing in life, but when you reduce a community to the functions of government, as we have, everything becomes partisan, everything becomes a life-or-dress, hair-on-fire debate. And we’re no longer even capable of sitting in silence near a dozen dead bodies or enjoying a meal from a restaurant whose politics don’t mirror our own.