Tone down the rhetoric

Tragedy and potential tragedy were the news of the day on a national basis last week.

At points throughout the U.S. elected officials, former elected officials and some private citizens were targeted by crude pipe bombs. They were chosen because of their political histories or beliefs. Various federal agencies working closely together came up with a suspect, who is now in custody.

Eleven people were killed Saturday and six others injured when a gunman opened fire on worshippers at a Pennsylvania synagogue. The worshippers were targeted because of their faith, according to officials, which is why the suspect now in custody is being charged under the federal hate crime statute, in addition to murder and other crimes.

You might ask what all this has to do with the price of shrimp in Dulac, since we are a local newspaper, located far from the places where bombs were sent or where hate-induced shots were fired. The answer is both sad and simple. It has been impossible to ignore the various discussions taking place on locally-based social media platforms, in local taverns and restaurants, as well as other local venues, that are a new indication of a disturbing trend.

Local voices have joined the chorus of conspiracy theorists and political tribalism, advancing arguments we have monitored with incredulity on national television and also in print. The bomb-mailings were a plot by Democrats to help them gain an edge in on-going House and Senate races, more than a few otherwise sane locals have maintained, parroting the words of radio personalities who earn their pay through dividing out nation rather than working to help keep it sewn together. The theory that the bombs were part of a false-flag conspiracy is the stuff spewed by madmen. Yet it has been given credence by some.

Local voices have questioned why a hate crime statute is being invoked in the Pennsylvania case, and why ethnicity or religion are issues under discussion. Raising the ethnic and religious issues, some have squealed, is one more way of pushing an agenda against an embattled U.S. president whom everyone seems to blame for the nation’s troubles.

At the same time, some opinion-mongers and alleged journalists have placed, in our opinion, far too much credence in the idea that the man currently occupying the White House is to blame for these despicable acts. Fair criticism of this president or any other is understandable and can be respected. Knee-jerk expression that indicates microscopic scrutiny of President Donald Trump’s words does not help healing. Just as there were many who would have faulted the former president, Barack Obama, had he come up with a cure for cancer, critics of Trump have often taken unreasonable routes. Extremist thought and speech in support of any ideology wins few converts toward any good end.

This does not mean that we support the fractious comments issuing from President Trump that he appears distressingly incapable of suppressing. Far from it. While a number of us here support him politically on some issues, we cringe with embarrassment from his tweets and ill-conceived words. Neither can we support words and actions by his opponents, who do not appear content to address their displeasure with the administration by working it out at the ballot box but would rather derail this presidency mid-stream.

Motivations important in discerning intent and credibility. The president appears obsessed with self-promotion and self-aggrandizement, which sadly detracts from some of his valid assertions and policies.

Ironically, in the wake of the recent near and actual tragedies, Louisiana’s two senators have spoken words that contain far more wisdom of late than those spoken from the White House.

We have a responsibility not to mask crimes of hate — political, religious or otherwise — with the trappings of legitimacy, by de-legitimizingthe logic which dictates that a man who targets Jews is a hater, or that a perpetrator of political bombings is motivated by political hate, or that a gunman who targets Republican baseball players — like the man who shot Rep. Steve Scalise and others during a practice in Virginia — is motivated by partisan hate as well.

We all have opinions and opinions will always differ. But we must all work hard now to make sure that we are not aiding and abetting insanity through denial or through inflammatory rhetoric. It is time for us to redraw our rules of engagement and realize that words matter, and that we have a responsibility to choose them wisely.