It feels like we’re all actors on a movie set. In the face of yet another tragic and horrifying mass shooting — two, actually — it’s like the director yelled “Action!” and we all assumed our positions.
The responses to two hate-inspired shootings over the weekend, one in El Paso and another in Dayton, have been nothing if not predictable.
Democratic lawmakers blame guns and the NRA, and have called on Republicans to pass more gun laws. And frankly, they should.
Republican lawmakers have, with a few notable exceptions, ignored those calls, instead tweeting out “thoughts and prayers” or blaming other societal ills like mental illness or violent video games.
Many in both parties blame President Trump for inciting violence and stoking anti-immigrant hate, and they have a point. He’s done next to nothing to temper the animosity and divisions boiling up in our everyday interactions. In fact, he’s exploited and fomented them to amass influence and try to get reelected.
Another version is to blame Trump’s supporters. Rep. Joaquin Castro called out an El Paso barbecue joint and a local realtor, among others, on Twitter, claiming they are responsible for “fueling a campaign of hate” through their political donations to Trump.
Naturally, the president is pointing his finger back at the left, specifically to Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and ANTIFA, all of whom the Dayton shooter claims to have supported. As for the El Paso shooter, whose manifesto echoes Trump’s white nationalist language, Trump took no responsibility.
Inside the media, it’s more finger-pointing.
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone knows exactly who is responsible, saying there is a straight line from white supremacism “right through to Donald Trump and his campaign’s messaging and communications, and that line goes right through Fox News.”
Meanwhile, over at Fox News, one host claimed those very categorizations of the television network and its right-wing hosts are going to be responsible for more violence.
That argument was distilled in a set of finger-pointing tweets between former Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer and current Fox News contributor Joey Jones.
Pfeiffer: “If you work for Fox News, advertise on Fox News, or support Fox News in any way, you are enabling the spread of White Nationalism in America and probably making a pretty penny doing so.”
Jones: “No Dan. I’m not. You, however, are instigating public hate towards me and my colleagues. Don’t worry though, if a crazy person attack’s (sic) me or my family after seeing your tweet, I’ll lawfully defend us as best I can, and won’t blame you or your irresponsible use of this website.”
Where has any of this gotten us? Exactly, precisely nowhere. We’re no closer to solving any of our problems, bridging our political divisions, tackling racism, preventing more violence, passing new laws, becoming a better society.
Be wary of the people with the most definitive and narrow explanations for whom is to blame for these mass shootings. Anyone who feels as if they have the moral high ground in this equation isn’t being honest.
That includes me, and probably you.
After all, who doesn’t believe their political views are the right ones, and their guys — in politics, on television, in life — are the good guys? You probably believe, whole-heartedly and without equivocation, that it’s the other side that is hate-filled, un-American, responsible for where we are today.
And you’ve probably thought of some punishing remedy, like putting someone out of business, criminalizing some behaviors, silencing certain speech or putting people in jail.
You’ve probably sent a nasty email, posted an insulting tweet, comment or direct message online to someone with whom you politically disagreed. You’ve probably spoken in generalized terms about groups of people, or blamed others for your problems.
You’ve probably protected your own political interests at the expense of meaningful solutions, because any kind of compromise today is a sign of political weakness. You’ve probably derided “both sides” arguments like this one, because one side must always be solely to blame. Anything less isn’t satisfying.
I’m not for a second suggesting these two disturbed shooters aren’t totally and singularly responsible for murdering innocent people in the name of hate. I am not equating those who want to kill people they view as enemies with people who just want to win arguments and expose what they deeply believe to be moral rot.
But we’ve all engaged in a politics of Us versus Them. And it’s that setup that helps keep us locked in a permanent cycle of hate, violent rhetoric and finger-pointing that fails to get at the root of our problems. In the aftermath of these tragedies, it’s tempting to look outward, identify the big actors responsible and call for big changes. And it’s probably time for some. But it’s also important to look inward, and make some big changes in ourselves. We are all culpable in this culture of hate.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.