That didn’t take long: Almost immediately after word got out that Leo Johnson, a security guard at the socially conservative Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., had been shot in the arm in the line of duty, the hate started to fly, on Twitter and various other social media outlets.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t hate for the shooter.
“Wonder how long it’ll take for the GOP to politicize a shooting at FRC?” posted one tweeter. When I tweeted that his response was inappropriate, he answered: “I’m sry how many more shootings have to take place b4 its ok to talk about this? With RW hate the answer seems to be nvr.” Because obviously, no one ever talks about politics in connection with violence.
Apparently, my correspondent failed to notice that his exaggerated warnings about politicizing a crime actually constituted politicization of a crime — and he was far from alone in doing that. Another tweeter wrote, “. . . a shooting at #FRC HQ was a long time coming. . . . Hate begets hate.” In an act of supreme irony, that person tagged his post #NOH8. And here’s a lovely display of sanctimony: “Dear FRC: my thoughts are with you. Just don’t say the things you do about your fellow Americans and expect not to be called a hate group.” (Much more of this sort of thing can be seen here.)
When early eyewitness reports — not yet confirmed by the police or the FBI — suggested that the shooter had said disparaging things about FRC’s views, the rhetoric got even crazier. The narrative that has emerged among certain members of the Left goes something like this: When a right-winger shoots a left-winger, the right wing is at fault. And when a left-winger shoots a right-winger, the right wing is also at fault, because people with their views are just asking for it.
Have we really gotten to the point in this country where some of us are willing to legitimize violence this way?
We have to be honest when talking about the motives of any given criminal. There’s no point in trying to hide or ignore them. But can’t we also be honest about the fact that on both sides of the aisle, violence tends to come only from the marginalized and deranged? Pinning the blame for a crime on an entire mainstream movement or belief system is a highly dangerous exercise. It means that when a crime is committed by someone who agrees with you — as will inevitably happen, since criminals come from all backgrounds and belief systems — you then have to quickly twist things around and protect yourself from any possible guilt by association. And if that means blaming the victim, well, so be it.
Except that the victims are real people with real worth, real feelings, and real families. As it happens, I know Leo Johnson somewhat. He started working at FRC during my own time there, a cheerful, laidback guy who was well liked by everyone. If the smears and backlash following this shooting are distressing to me, imagine how they must make his loved ones feel.
According to D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier, Leo Johnson, now recovering in the hospital, “is a hero.” He showed the very best of human nature when he helped tackle his shooter to the ground, saving who knows how many lives. His inspiring example is what everyone should be focusing on right now; heaven knows we’d all be better for it. Thank you, Leo, and God bless you.
— Gina Dalfonzo is editor of BreakPoint.org and Dickensblog. She worked at Family Research Council from 1997 to 2001.