Column: Hateful rhetoric following tragedies pollutes memory of victims
In the wake of abhorrent cases of domestic and foreign terrorism, my advice is to stay off of social media.
It seems as though for every sympathetic, love-driven tweet of prayers and condolences for those who are lost, there are 10 posts using a murderous, hate-filled rampage as a way to bolster political ideologies and further perpetuate the deep cultural and political divide of the United States.
The eruption of social media commentary in the aftermath of the horrendous shooting at the morning service of the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas has not been above such political slander.
It was shortly discovered that the suspect of the shooting, 26-year-old Devin Kelly, may have been a strong atheist and an advocate for the Antifa – a controversial, often violent leftwing conglomerate of anti-fascist groups in the United States. As evidence continues to surface, officials have begun to question this, stating the shooting did not appear to be fueled by racial or religious issues. But this revelation did not stop people from using the 26 deaths of church attendees as 26 pieces of evidence to be used for political leverage.
“DEAR LEFT, Trump supporters don’t go shooting up churches. Sutherland Springs shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, is likely #Antifa & ALL YOURS,” tweeted @DBloom451.
“Sutherland Springs shooter identified as Devin Patrick Kelley suspected of converting to a Muslim! Hmmm… #Texas,” tweeted @TrumpStrong45.
“Another day. Another mass shooting. And more calls for prayers. They were in CHURCH! They don’t need prayers! GUN CONTROL!” tweeted @JustMaryy.
I could go on.
Not soon after the identity of the shooter was publicized, the renewed debate about gun control again took center stage just as it has following the terrorist attacks in New York, Las Vegas and countless other cities across the country. Debates on firearm regulation are observantly much more important to the political voices of Twitter than the actual people who were suddenly and grotesquely slaughtered.
This is a problem that extends beyond party lines—social media users from both sides of the aisle have historically used the lives of those killed for their own personal gain for fruitless 140-character political stump speeches.
Perhaps it is the sheer number of terrorist incidents, like the one in Texas, that has made us callused to the news of mass murder and heartache. It is thus not inherently wrong to debate solutions to limit the continual rise of mass shootings in the U.S. It is more clear now than ever that gun control policy and legislation focused on public safety should be deliberately reviewed by Congress to stop this from happening again.
Do not confuse deliberate policymaking with the cold insensitivity that I believe is so commonly widespread among social media outlets, however.
While scrolling through tweets on the matter, calls for prayer and sympathy have been diluted with this type of political toxicity. What if, though, those political “pundits” on twitter used their social media platform not to call for gun control, but to call for the financial and emotional support of the families who lost a husband, a father, or perhaps a son and daughter?
What would happen if political speech was—even if it were just for a moment—silenced out of respect for the people who will never see their loved ones on this earth again?
In the wake of tragedies like the one we have just witnessed in Texas, it is imperative that our divisive culture puts away its differences to help support those deeply affected, not use the incident to deepen said divide.
Political speech in the U.S. has shown itself to oftentimes be cruel and ignorant. Let us not allow it to pollute the lives of the fallen