I am ashamed to admit it, but I have been struggling to sympathize with the Republican Congressmen who were on the baseball practice field Wednesday when a shooter, another in a long line of loser white males with a gun, opened up on them.
As each Senator or Representative has recounted his experience for the cameras, I’ve looked up his NRA rating. Without exception, they’ve all had A or A+ ratings, meaning that on every issue the NRA considers important, they’ve voted the way the NRA demands. This even includes voting for a bill that rolled back the Obama regulation adding persons receiving disability benefits for mental illness to the background check list, so that (presumably) gun dealers wouldn’t sell guns to people whose mental illness has been established.
Every one of these Congressmen have voted to create the society all of us now live in: all guns, in all places, all the time.
Listening to their stories, it’s occurred to me that until Wednesday these men probably felt untouchable. Most of the shooting tragedies I recall have affected those, unlike these exemplars of white male privilege, who are “Others.” LGBTs in a nightclub, African Americans in a church, Muslims in a mosque, Unitarians at Sunday service, a Planned Parenthood doctor, women in abusive relationships, working class employees at various workplaces, a black teenager walking home from a convenience store in a Florida neighborhood, students in a high school, young students and teachers in an elementary school. Not groups of upper class, middle-aged white males. Not Congressmen! And certainly not members of the GOP ruling class! Not possible.
That feeling of invulnerability must now be shattered, at least for a time. But for a locked gate, an armed security detail, and the fact that the shooter apparently was a very bad shot, several privileged white males would have died on that baseball field in what then would have been classified as just another mass shooting, notable only because it involved Congressmen. We’d have another moment of silence, another call for prayers for the victims and their families, and then we’d move on. Just as we always do. Thirty thousand Americans die from gun violence every year and we just shrug and move on.
That experience on a sunny Wednesday morning must have been terrifying for the Congressmen, just as it was for all those Others who came before. And yet, despite all those earlier tragedies, these Congressmen have continued to vote for more guns in more hands in more places, putting an extreme interpretation of the Second Amendment over the safety of us all.
I suspect these guys never before had to contemplate how much more dangerous our society has become and is becoming because it never occurred to them that they, too, could be at risk, just as we all now are. If they’ve now thought that maybe it isn’t just us Others who are endangered, but themselves as well, I suspect it’s a thought that they’ll eventually reject, because their political survival depends on continuing to do the NRA’s bidding. Maybe, at taxpayer expense, they’ll all get their very own security details and they’ll get to feel safe again, although the rest of us won’t have that luxury.
I struggle to have more sympathy than I do, but when I listen to their stories, which echo the ones we’ve heard so many times from so many Others, what rings in my ears is Bob Dylan’s bitter question in “Like a Rolling Stone”: how does it feel?