If you disagree with someone are they evil?
James T. Hodgkinson wanted to know whether the members of Congress practicing baseball at a field in Alexandria, Va., were Republicans or Democrats, according to multiple media reports. Told they were GOP lawmakers, Hodgkinson walked back to his car. He retrieved a rifle and opened fire.
Capitol Police officers at the scene returned fire, wounding Hodgkinson. The 66-year-old Illinois man later died at a hospital. Before Hodgkinson was brought down, he wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., a congressional aide, another man, two police officers and a lobbyist.
The fact he targeted Republican members of Congress suggests strongly that he was upset with them — and that he believed killing some of them was an appropriate reaction to his displeasure.
In a nation of more than 325 million people, it is inevitable that a substantial number will be mentally unbalanced enough to commit violent acts for any number of reasons. But it is also worth asking whether the hysteria over Republican President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers played a role in Hodgkinson’s shooting spree.
The frenzy has reached the level that a New York City drama group is staging a production of “Julius Caesar” in which the lead character is played by an actor dressed and made up to resemble Trump. In the play, he is assassinated. Defenders of the production say they have a First Amendment right to express their anger at Trump that way. They do. But legal sometimes is not right. Can you imagine the outrage — especially the mainstream media outrage — that would have ensued had the actor resembled former President Barack Obama?
But there is a difference between questioning someone’s policies and insisting they are evil and need to be stopped. The latter is an invitation to people like Hodgkinson to take matters into their own hands through violence.