Derek Donovan

Derek Donovan: No, speech didn’t cause the baseball game shooting

Hundreds of millions of Americans debate politics without resorting to violence, writes Derek Donovan.
Hundreds of millions of Americans debate politics without resorting to violence, writes Derek Donovan. AP

If there’s one thing unifying right and left after the horror of Wednesday’s mass shooting at the Republican practice for the Congressional Baseball Game, it’s pointing the finger at our current white-hot political discourse as the cause.

And, of course, each side says the other one started it. If candidate Donald Trump hadn’t wistfully questioned whether a rally protester “should have been roughed up,” we’d surely be in a more genteel place. Or it was really President Barack Obama who led us here — not by directly inciting violence, but by “contribut(ing) mightily to dividing us,” in the words of Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

This is the line of reasoning that insists that when we discuss government and society using the language of war and violence, it’s inevitable that actual brutality will manifest itself. And it’s nonsense.

Metaphor, simile and other comparative linguistic devices have been with us as long as we’ve had language. Yes, the internet and cable TV culture have brought us politicians willing to cross traditional lines of decorum. But hundreds of millions of us continue to debate the issues without resorting to fists, knives or guns. Homicidal intent or mental illness are the culprits.

Derek Donovan, ddonovan@kcstar.com

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