In the wake of three mass shootings that left 30-plus people dead in less than a week, many liberals blasted President Donald Trump for inciting violence with hateful rhetoric.
The return fire from the White House answered anger with more anger.
In presidential tweets, Trump insulted the leading Democratic candidate Joe Biden, attacked Ohio and Texas officials, and complained about the media.
Vice President Mike Pence told the president’s critics that they should spend more time on their knees and less time on the internet.
Trump supporter Mike Huckabee announced that it was wrong to criticize Trump and that “a lack of thought and prayers is probably the single biggest factor” causing mass murders.
These are not comments designed to reassure the public. They are not intended to engage critics in reasoned debate. The aim is to demean anyone who disagrees with the president.
Don’t get me wrong: Prayers are an honorable means of expressing support and empathy.
But prayer is no panacea. This administration knows that. If the White House and its supporters sincerely believed prayer should be substituted for secular responses to the country’s problems, GOP-run states would not approve an endless stream of laws to ban all legal abortions. They would just tell us to pray on it.
And they wouldn’t demand billions from taxpayers to build border walls. They would just pray that immigrants from the designated “----hole” countries wouldn’t try to make the United States their home.
Huckabee and Pence aim to shame political foes into silence by implying that their lack of piety led to the murders of innocent people.
To back up a bit, a right-wing shooter killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 3; a left-wing shooter murdered nine people less than a day later; and a teenager killed three the Sunday before in Gilroy, California. The Texas killer cited Trump’s rhetoric as he explained his murderous plan. The motives of the California and Ohio killers are unclear, but there’s no doubt that killers come in a variety of political stripes.
No good purpose is served by debating which party fosters more criminals.
Many on the right want to distract, anger and incite the public because they fear lawmakers might otherwise actually outlaw assault rifles, mandate background checks on all gun purchases, or ban the sale and possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Meanwhile, many on the left are more interested in attacking the president than in building support for gun safety legislation.
While Trump claims otherwise, he likely does carry some responsibility for fueling the violence.
Yes, similar crimes occurred before he was elected president. But recent research shows correlations between increases in hate crimes and Trump’s hate-filled attacks on immigrants, Muslims, Democrats, media and others.
Such evidence, however, will not persuade Trump to change his tactics or tone.
That doesn’t mean Congress can’t act. Lawmakers have the power to better protect people who shop at Walmart on a Saturday morning, or who go out for a drink with friends, or who enjoy a Sunday afternoon with family at a community festival.
While Huckabee and Pence condescend to preach to Americans about how much we should pray and for what, voters can do more than pray. They can demand lawmakers do their jobs, even if the White House will not.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.