The world revolted this weekend, when 31 people died in shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. In a country where mass shootings have become an epidemic and the new normal, this was a horrifying low.
The political response was swift, with President Trump issuing a rare condemnation of the back-to-back shootings.
“We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks, perhaps marrying . . . this legislation with desperately needed immigration reform.” In a speech on Monday, Trump said, “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy — these sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”
In a press conference on Sunday, Trump told media that his administration has done “a lot” to combat gun violence — and that “perhaps, more has to be done.”
That’s where Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline comes in. Cicilline responded to Trump’s comments on Twitter, writing, “Perhaps? No sh*t, Sherlock.” It was an abrupt and firey response to comments that some may see as a step in the right direction from a President and party that has been unflinching in their opposition to gun control.
But was Cicilline wrong to use the language he did?
At first, I thought Cicilline should use such language. At a time when the President has used such language — referring to African nations as “sh*thole countries” in early 2018 — and political norms are breaking down, it didn’t seem out of line whatsoever for Cicilline to utilize vulgarity to make a point. In fact, it seemed justified.
Then my thinking shifted. For members of the Democratic Party that decry Trump’s conduct, is it not hypocritical to sink to similar lows?
Politicians, as sleezy as some may be perceived in 2019, are supposed to be respected members of society — individuals with their constituents' best interests at heart. An era where vulgarities didn’t stream out of politicians mouths so easily wasn’t long ago.
But, yet again, my thinking shifted.
People are dying because of government inaction, and outrage is more than just justified. It’s not limited to Cicilline, either. Beto O’Rourke — from El Paso — was asked by a reporter whether Trump’s rhetoric had anything to do with the shooting.
“What do you think?” O’Rourke responded. “You know the shit he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know, like, members of the press, what the f*ck? Hold on a second. You know, I — it’s these questions that you know the answers to. I mean, connect the dots about what he’s doing in this country. He’s not tolerating racism; he’s promoting racism. He’s not tolerating violence; he’s inciting racism and violence in this country. So, you know, I just — I don’t know what kind of question that is.”
That outrage is well-founded and necessary in these circumstances.
It’s fair to wonder if this type of language will creep into normal political conversation — after all, a December, 2018 analysis by GovPredict found that the word Cicilline used was published only 18 times by politicians on social media in 2015, compared to 1166 times in 2018 — but that doesn’t minimize the impact that Cicilline’s comment was meant to have in today’s world.
While expressing Cicilline’s outrage in such a manner may not be pretty, it’s justified.
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