You know how it goes.. In the aftermath of a terrible attack, the social media scavengers descend on the posting history of the perpetrator to pin him to one side of politics or the other – See? he was a fascist! He was a hippie! He shopped at Kroger! He owns a Tesla! Your rhetoric is violence!
Jay Caspian Kang picks up this idea in The New Yorker and interestingly, he observes that this ritual rarely brings the satisfaction that we think it should. “After the initial dash to tag a violent actor as “right-wing” or “left-wing,” the granular categorizations offer taxonomy without meaning; the particulars of ideology rarely have the lasting explanatory power we’re looking for.”
This is not to say that there is no politically-motivated violence in America, but Kang suggests that the connections between a criminal’s ideology and his violent acts are often “made in our heads, not theirs.” Kang would like to see a new conversation begun, to address issues of severe mental maladies and the ways society is failing those who suffer with them.
It is a helpful observation – trying to decipher party-affiliation from a series of tweets doesn’t really get to the root of “why? But even a diagnosis that can go some way to explaining violent behavior still fails to address the fundamental brokenness of our society. A well-funded and effective mental health system that really does prevent vulnerable people from falling through the cracks is a noble aim, but while the American family is in pieces, this is pouring water uphill.
What Kang fails to recongize is that life in a corrupted world is characterized by strife. Sinful men will always raise their hands in violence, whether in their right minds or not. The state can mitigate the affects of sin, but only Jesus through his word and sacraments can change a man’s heart.
While a lot of political violence seems to be all in one direction at the moment, it would be good if both sides of politics and their attendant media outlets would put down the hyperbole long enough to take some value from Kang’s argument. There is much that could be done to help the homeless and hurting. However, for now we need to pray against workers of lawlessness and the spirit that blinds them, no matter which politics they subscribe to. As Pastor Fisk says, men should lift up their hands in prayer not in anger or violence.