It hasn’t even been 24 hours yet as I write this, and we don’t really know what his motives were. From what I’ve seen, though, I’d be astonished — genuinely astonished — if his beliefs mapped in any meaningful way to those who identify themselves as part of the “Tea Party Movement.” I believe it when I hear members of that movement say they condemn the violence that happened yesterday. I don’t believe for an instant that the idiots who show up to rallies with loaded weapons really have any intention of pointing it at anyone and pulling the trigger. I truly don’t. I think there are potty training issues being worked out, but I don’t think killing anyone is in the cards.
That being said, it doesn’t really matter that the vast majority of Tea Partiers likely didn’t want what happened yesterday to happen. When you don’t speak out against the people on your side who espouse violence — even if it’s in a nod-nod-wink-wink kind of way — you own it when someone decides to work out their problems that way.
The problem with words is that they can’t be unsaid. You can apologize. You can wipe them from the record (though Google never forgets). You can’t jump in the Wayback Machine and slap yourself for saying something dumb, no matter how much you’d like to. I get that. I’ve said things I wish I hadn’t said. We all have. It’s an occupational hazard of being human.
But here’s the thing, Tea Partiers: you don’t get to claim ignorance anymore. Anyone who’s seen the signs at your rallies understands that you’re up against a lot of ignorance, but now you’ve had a concrete example of what happens when someone decides that a gun is the way to deal with whatever’s troubling them. People die. People are hurt. Communities are ripped apart.
I don’t own a gun. I don’t have any use for one. That’s my choice. You’re welcome to make another choice. When I was in college I took a marksmanship class as a PE course. I enjoyed it. I learned a lot. I don’t have any fundamental problem with guns. They’re designed to kill things and I don’t have any call to do that. I don’t look down on people who hunt or just shoot guns as a hobby. The people I know who happen to own guns are very safety-conscious about them. I would be astonished if any of them are happy about what happened yesterday. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. If they haven’t been speaking out against the imagery and language of “Second Amendment Remedies,” they own yesterday as much as Tea Partiers.
As I said, though, you can’t go back and unsay things, and you can’t go back and say things when they should have been said.
But now you have no excuse to stay silent going forward. No one does.
Something I’ve noticed about the Tea Partiers is that they don’t handle shades of grey very well. You’re either with the terrorists or against them. You’re either for America or you’re against it.
So here’s the deal: you’re either for what happened yesterday, or you’re against it. And the evidence is in both what you say and what you do — or in what fail to say or do. You own what Glenn Beck says. You own what Ann Coulter says. You own what Sarah Palin says. You own what Rush Limbaugh says. You own what Michelle Malkin says.
Unless you say you don’t.