The bodies in Las Vegas weren’t even cold before the political bickering started online.
As I sat alone and watched the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting in Las Vegas play out in real time on Twitter, I thought about the first time I ever actually used Twitter; ironically, it to find information about another mass shooting. In 2009, a man went into the gym I belonged to and opened fire, killing three people and injuring nine more before turning the gun on himself. I was in Harrisburg serving in the State Legislature, and my girlfriend at the time mentioned she might stop at the gym that evening. The only way I could get any updates on what was happening was via Twitter. Since that day, I always go straight to Twitter for breaking news stories.
That was eight years ago, a lifetime in social media years. Many would argue the evolution of social media runs parallel with a near-total breakdown of civility in our public discourse, and I’d be hard-pressed to disagree. So as I scrolled through my Twitter feed in the wee hours of the morning, I was neither shocked nor surprised to see people staking out political positioning to advance their ideologies.
Trump fans spent all night on 4chan trying to figure out how to blame the Las Vegas shooting on “leftists” or jews. Not kidding.
— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) October 2, 2017
Just to clear up any and all confusion, the shooting in Las Vegas WAS an act of terrorism committed by a white man. He IS a terrorist!
— Amber Dodge (@AmberDodge17) October 2, 2017
Life comes at you fast. NRA spokespuppet goes from chiding the mayor of Edmonton after a terror attack to waiting for the facts in Las Vegas pic.twitter.com/ZWUrZpdrcX
— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) October 2, 2017
Again, the bodies weren’t even cold yet.
America is more divided now than at any point since the Civil Rights Movement. Serious times call for serious people using words and actions to step up and lead us through our darkest days. The problem is there’s really no way for the average American to discern between a thoughtful leader and an idiot with a smartphone and a Twitter account. Instead of confronting our problems, we dismiss anything that doesn’t reinforce our preconceived reality as fake news.
Facts no longer matter, which means everyone is right and everyone is wrong, everyone is a genius, everyone is a moron, everyone is a white supremacist, and everyone is a Libtard. We’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of offending and being offended, and usually, the side with the most money ends up controlling everything and we just keep shouting at one another.
There is one exception- the President of the United States.
With an unparalleled capability to communicate to the entire nation, an American President may be the one person whose voice can rise above the echo chamber. As we struggle through this Era of Bad Feelings™, there is still a basic respect among most Americans for the office of the President that supersedes partisanship in times of crisis. U.S. Presidents have peacefully transferred power to their successors, regardless of political affiliation, for 230 years, which is quite a streak. The bottom line is the President of the United States embodies one of the core institutions the people can count on, even if they don’t necessarily agree with the person occupying the office.
Which brings us to Donald J. Trump.
As a student of political science and law, I am continually appalled and disgusted by the disrespect Donald Trump has shown the institution of the Presidency and by extension, the American people. There is no need to go through the list, and for once, I’m not going to try to persuade anyone politically. Sure, the issues are serious and they aren’t going away, but less than twenty-four hours after the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history, I need more.
Mr. Trump, I need you to be my goddamned President right now.
We are in a moment which requires transcending politics as usual. Vague generalizations aren’t going to cut it. With all due respect, Mr. President, fuck your thoughts and prayers; you aren’t the Pope. And you sure as hell aren’t going to bring this nation together 140 characters at a time. Mr. President, this is your moment. Despite everything that has transpired over the past year, I’m looking to you for the leadership only you, by virtue of your office, can provide.
I’m almost certainly never going to vote for you, but I will listen to you right now because I recognize the need to be united in the face of tragedy. We were all united after 9/11, but that was partially because the enemy fit the profile of an enemy we were comfortable with, Quran in one hand and turban in the other. This is much tougher. The enemy is one of us, which means to try and make sense of it all, we have to look at our possible culpability as a nation.
Did Stephen Paddock slip through the system somehow? Was he denied access to medical or mental health care that could have somehow saved him from his acts of madness? Is it finally time to acknowledge that our Second Amendment rights will not be lessened by preventing someone from acquiring an automatic weapon capable of the carnage we just witnessed? Is it time to finally check the virtually unfettered political power of the NRA?
For just this one brief moment, please rise above the talking points. I don’t expect you to have the solutions to all of our problems, but I do need you to openly acknowledge they exist. I need you to put your phone away and stop trying to govern via talking points. I need to genuinely believe your reaction to a mass shooting at a country music concert would be the same if it had taken place at a rap concert. I need you to at least try and unite all that you take such pleasure in dividing.
I have to believe someone smart enough to rise to the Presidency is capable of realizing when it’s time to stop being a politician and start acting like our President. Instead of pouring salt in the wound to score political points, be the one who applies the tourniquet to stop the bleeding.
Go ahead, Mr. President. I’m listening, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.