June 14, 2017 was Flag Day and the United States Army’s 242nd birthday.
It was also the day a man from Illinois went to Virginia and tried to kill Republicans.
Maybe it was just a bad day in our country’s long, blessed history, or maybe we’re on the edge of something big. I don’t know, and I don’t believe anyone else does either, whatever they tell you.
Historian Robert Massie wrote: “In 1913, the gilded world of European aristocracy was at its zenith. In fact, fashionable society, like the rest of mankind, stood one step from the abyss. Within 5 years, three major European empires would be defeated, three emperors would die or flee into exile…[t]wenty million men, aristocrats and commoners alike, would perish.”
He was saying what we all know: the biggest changes are almost always around blind corners. No one in 1913 would’ve believed what 1918 looked like.
In response to today, everyone’s offering nostrums. I will try not to add to that, but I wanted to share a few thoughts.
I’ve always liked this line from an interview with the late Justice Antonin Scalia: “I attack ideas. I don’t attack people. Some very good people have some very bad ideas. And if you can’t separate the two, you gotta get another day job”. Amen.
On days like today, you will hear a lot of responsibility-assigning. Let’s not forget the responsibility for the Alexandria shooting is with the shooter. But if you want to want to assign some of it to the careless rhetoric of the opponents of the side that got shot, then make sure you do that consistently. Either it’s always true or it never is.
Some people are announcing on social media that they are turning over a new leaf of “toning down”, etc., etc. What they probably mean is, “everyone should do this, so I’ll go first.” Unilateral disarmament hasn’t been a success, historically.
I look at this atrocity differently. The shooter is a terrorist. We don’t beat ISIS by “toning down”, and we don’t stop people like him that way either.
To be honest, I don’t surrender when I’m attacked, literally or figuratively. So, if you shoot at my side, I think you need to be exposed as the terrorist you are, and dealt with accordingly. I won’t be toning it down. But I will keep doing what I try to do anyway, which is stick to the Scalia rule of engaging ideas more than engaging their messengers.
I won’t always succeed, but I will be trying.
Today was a bad day for our country, and these times feel very much like 1913, when the tinder was dry and, as Churchill noted, “the vials of wrath were full”.
Or it may have just been a bad day, and we pray for better tomorrows.