Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

In response to a recent article of mine on James Hodgkinson—the Bernie Sanders supporter and despiser of all things Republican who attempted to assassinate Republican congressmen in Alexandria, Virginia on June 14—a reader who self-identified as being “as far right as it gets” accused me of going “UNDER the gutter” for implicating the Democrats  and the left generally in Hodgkinson’s crime.

In my piece, I quoted from the shooter’s Facebook pages and those who knew him. My aim was to establish that, politically, Hodgkinson was of exactly one and the same mindset as any and every other leftist politician, celebrity, media personality, and academic who has been laboring incessantly for decades to convince the world that the Republican Party is the embodiment of evil.

As one notable 20th century conservative thinker once famously put it, ideas have consequences. Since, then, ideas are expressed in and understood through words, words have consequences.

It is precisely because of this that those who espouse them, and do so repeatedly, must assume some ownership of the actions performed by those who have taken those ideas and words to heart and acted upon them.

In most contexts, no one has any difficulty understanding this.

Among the moral philosophical traditions of the West, the oldest is what is known by moral philosophers as “virtue ethics.”  Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle endorsed this vision of morality, and Aristotle specifically is universally recognized by philosophers as the premiere exponent of it, the first to give it systematic expression.

Christian thinkers in the classical and medieval periods, like Saints Augustine and Aquinas, would adapt virtue ethics to their faith.

By the lights of the virtue ethicist, morality is not, as many of our contemporaries are disposed to think, essentially a matter of following rules and/or principles.  Morality is essentially a matter of character-development.  “What kind of a person do I want to become?” This is the key moral question.

Virtues, like their contraries, vices, are habits.  Virtues are character excellences that the virtuous person acquires by habitually acting virtuously.  Conversely, vices are character flaws that the vicious person acquires by habitually acting viciously.

Human beings become virtuous and vicious, respectively, by acting virtuously and viciously.  Acting leads to being.  However, the only way for a person who is not yet virtuous to know how to act virtuously is for him or her to imitate someone who already is virtuous.

Knowledge of morality, then, is not, strictly speaking, taught but, rather, imparted. The recipients of a moral education—this would mean all of us—imbibe the knowledge that is imparted to us by moral exemplars, virtuous human beings who today many are inclined to call “role models.”

We learn morality as we learn so much else in life, through the example of others, whether these exemplars are people who we know intimately, pillars of our local or national communities, historical personages, or even fictional characters.

Of course, we also learn how to become immoral, or vicious.  And we learn this in the same ways in which we learn to become virtue—through the example of others.

Now, words are never mere words. Every utterance is a speech-act, an action of sorts.  Again, we all know this to be true, a fact borne out every time we praise and condemn people, especially those in positions of influence, for their words.

We praise and condemn people for their language, for the ideas that they express, because we all readily understand that words and ideas have consequences.

Moral agents, i.e. adult human beings, are unique in that they are not just causally, but morally, responsible for their actions. These actions, of course, include their speech-acts, what they say and how they say it.

Moral responsibility is not the same thing as causal responsibility. When a bolt of lightning, a force of nature, strikes a power grid, the former is causally responsible for the damage that it inflicts upon the latter. The lightning determines the damage caused to the power grid.

In stark contrast, moral responsibility presupposes free will, or indeterminism. No moral act is ever determined by antecedent conditions.  Moral acts are determined, if you will, only by those who immediately and directly choose to perform them.

So, James Hodgkinson is causally responsible for firing bullets into those Republicans who he preyed upon on the morning of June 14.  He also shoulders the largest share of the moral responsibility for this action, for it was Hodgkinson and no one else who chose to do what he did.

That being said, there are degrees of moral responsibility.  To suggest that those Democrats and leftists with loud and influential voices, those who served as Hodgkinson’s moral exemplars, those who imparted and reinforced the ideas that fueled him to go on a Republican hunting spree, shoulder zero culpability for the fruits of their tireless endeavor to demonize Republicans stretches credibility to the snapping point.

It’s like saying that all of the responsibility falls upon a black person who shoots police officers after being exposed to hordes of Black Lives Matter activists chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!” This person is ultimately the most responsible for the act that he chose to do, certainly.  Yet it is equally certain that those who urged actions of the sort that this shooter engaged in also must assume some responsibility for their words, their speech-acts.

Their hands are not without blood on them. They are not without guilt.

And neither are those Democrats and leftists who continually spout the worst sort of lies about Republicans without the blood on their hands of the five Republicans who James Hodgkinson shot up in Alexandria.

 

On June 14, a man opened fire on a group of Republican politicians and staffers who were practicing for Congress’s annual baseball game.  Before doing so, however, he was careful to verify that the men on the field were indeed Republicans.

That man has now been identified as James Hodgkinson, 66.

Those in the Democrat-controlled media were quick to note that Hodgkinson was white; male; and branding a gun.  They were less ready to share with the public Hodgkinson’s politics—and understandably so.

Hodgkinson, you see, was an avid supporter of Bernie Sanders who was actually part of the Vermont Senator’s presidential campaign.

He was also just as avidly—or rabidly—opposed to the presidency of Donald Trump.

Hodgkinson’s Facebook posts tell you all that you need to know about his political orientation.  Readers can see for themselves here.  For now, a random selection of Hodgkinson’s pearls will suffice to provide a glimpse into the dark recesses of his soul.

On June 12, just two days before the now (thankfully) deceased Hodgkinson perpetrated a mass shooting, he wrote:

“I Want to Say Mr. President, for being an a**h*** you are Truly the Biggest A** H*** We Have Ever Had in the Oval Office.”

“Make America Great Again [Trump], Resign!”

“Trump is Guilty & Should Go to Prison for Treason.”

“Trump is a Mean, Disgusting Person.”

On June 8, of Georgia Republican Karen Handel, Hodgkinson said that she’s a “Republican B**ch” who “Wants People to Work for Slave Wages, when a Livable Wage is the Only Way to Go! Vote Blue, It’s Right for You!”

America has been turned into a “Fascist State,” so everyone should “Vote Blue, It’s Right for You!”

Hodgkinson linked to a meme for “Bernie Sanders Day” (which is July 26, for those of you who are interested).  It contains tips for the ways in which observers can commemorate the failed Democrat presidential candidate.

Just last week, Hodgkinson posted a meme featuring two gay men embracing. The caption reads: “How to solve global warming: Convince Republicans that rising temperatures are turning people gay.”

Like Sanders, Hodgkinson was an unabashed proponent of “Democratic socialism.” He posted: “Democratic Socialism explained in 3 words: ‘We the People’ Since 1776.”

Hodgkinson links to such sites as Yahoo and MSNBC with frequency.   A friend of his described him as “a passionate progressive.” Indeed he was that, for Hodgkinson implored Democrat senators to filibuster Neal Gorsuch’s confirmation, impeach Trump, and “tax the rich.”  He criticized Reagan-style tax cutting as “trickle-down economics,” believed in anthropogenic “climate change,” and called the GOP “the Taliban of America.”

On May 26, Hodgkinson shared a post from “Republicans Suck.”  It read: “Republicans Hate Women, Minorities, Working Class People, & Most All (99%) of the People of the Country.”

He was especially incensed over the GOP’s substitute for Obamacare. “Higher Costs & Less Coverage,” Hodgkinson wrote. “Who Would Have Thought That the Republican Law Makers Don’t Give a Damn About the Working Class in this Country.”

“Vote All Republicans Out of Office is the Start!” he added.

Hodgkinson specifically targeted House Majority Whip and one of his shooting victims, Steve Scalise (who is now in critical condition), by sharing a cartoon that linked the latter to “white supremacy.”

In other words, Hodgkinson was a left-wing Democrat all of the way.  He was a fan of Bill Maher and, especially, Rachel Maddow, going so far as to express his wish that the latter would eventually run for the presidency.

A neighbor of Hodgkinson’s, Aaron Meurer, said of him: “I knew he was a Democrat, a pretty hardcore one.  I know he wasn’t happy when Trump got elected [.]”

By all accounts, Hodgkinson was not “mentally ill” (unless, as Michael Savage long ago said, “liberalism,” Hodgkinson’s leftist ideology, is a mental disorder”). He was methodical, calculating.  Nor is this would-be assassination the occasion to discuss “gun control,” as Hodgkinson’s fellow travelers on the left would have us think.  Doubtless, Hodgkinson himself was more likely than not to be a champion of “gun control.”

While it would be grossly unfair and inaccurate to suggest that your average leftist Democrat would so much as think to follow his example, the stone-cold fact of the matter is that Hodgkinson was nothing more or less than the anti-Trump, anti-GOP hatred of the contemporary “progressive” vision taken to its extreme logical term.

Politically speaking, Hodgkinson was indistinguishable from Chuck Schumer, Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and, of course, Bernie Sanders.

He was politically indistinguishable from every Democrat congressperson and senator who spares no occasion to demonize the Republicans in order to stall President Trump’s agenda: As they cook up the Russian Conspiracy theory to paint the President as a traitor, so too did Hodgkinson specifically label Trump as such.

Hodgkinson was politically indistinguishable from Maddow and virtually every Trump-hating, GOP-hating talking head at CNN, MSNBC, and on the major network news broadcasts.

His Facebook screeds could’ve easily appeared as editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post, Daily News, Huffington Post, The Nation, Salon, Slate, and legions of other leftist publications.

He was politically indistinguishable from our court jesters, the Colberts, Kimmels, and Mahers.

He was politically indistinguishable from Madonna, Kathy Griffin, Snoop Dogg, and every other Hollywood celebrity who labors inexhaustibly to vilify Republicans generally and Trump specifically.

Hodgkinson was politically indistinguishable from the vast majority of academics who are filled with precisely the same ugly thoughts that led him to try slaughtering as many Republicans as he could.

In short, James Hodgkinson, the “hard core” Democrat whose murderous hatred of Trump and all things Republican drove him to try purging the planet of Republicans is now a late member of…“the Resistance.”

This is something for all of us to keep front and center as we move forward.

 

 

It’s still early yet, but, reportedly, shortly before a would-be assassin opened fire on a baseball team comprised of Republican members of Congress, hitting three of them, including House of Representatives Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, he asked Congressman Ron DeSantis whether his prospective victims were Republicans or Democrats.

Presumably, when the shooter, who has just been identified as James Hodgkinson, was satisfied that it was Republicans on whom he was about to set his sights, he shot off dozens of rounds from his hunting rifle.

If these eye-witness accounts are accurate, then there is no question that this potential massacre was the worst act of political violence that we have witnessed in this country in a long time.

Neither is there any question that it is the culmination of a trend of leftist violence that, in a variety of ways and in a variety of contexts, the left has been visiting upon Donald Trump’s supporters and Republicans generally from at least the time that our President announced his plans to run for the office back in June of 2015.

There have been literally hundreds of documented attacks against those sporting pro-Trump paraphernalia and attending Trump’s rallies.

Leftist billionaires and millionaires have been busy financing mercenaries, paid leftist agitators, to crash Republican politicians’ “town hall” meetings, to “get in the faces” of Republicans, a course of action that Barack Obama once infamously urged his supporters to appropriate when dealing with their political opponents.

Shortly prior to the last presidential election, a GOP campaign office in North Carolina was firebombed.

Academics, like Cornel West, along with others of his ideological ilk, have created a “Resistance” movement against, not any particular policies of the President and his party, but the very election of Donald Trump.

Celebrities like Madonna admit to fantasizing about “blowing up” Trump’s White House.

Comedian Kathy Griffin has a photoshoot in which she is featured holding up the decapitated, bloody head of the President.

Rapper “Snoop Dogg” makes a video of himself shooting a clown that is obviously meant to resemble Trump, and his nephew “Bow Wow” threatens to “pimp out” the First Lady.

The New York Public Theater stages a play that depicts a Trump-centric Julius Caesare being stabbed to death.

The left, whether in its standard Democrat or neoconservative/NeverTrump varieties, spares no occasion to delegitimize Trump’s presidency and demonize, no, dehumanize, him as a person.  By implication, leftists, as represented by Hillary Clinton’s immemorial remarks, demonize and dehumanize as well the President’s tens of millions of supporters, those “irredeemables” and “deplorables.”

The left has long backed Black Lives Matter (BLM), a movement—begotten by the lie that black thug Michael Brown had his hands up when he was shot and killed by a white Ferguson, Missouri police officer—some of whose members have openly demanded the death of police officers and others of whom have literally tried to bring this wish to fruition.

The left has spawned “Antifa” (“antifascists”), thugs dressed in all black and wearing masks.  These punks make it their business to burn American flags, curse police officers, and use any and all available weapons in order to literally beat those who support the President and America.

Democrats in Congress, along with their NeverTrump allies across the aisle, show utter contempt for Trump.  Their fellow travelers in the Fake News media—places like CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times—promote entirely unsubstantiated propaganda, like the Russian “collusion” Conspiracy, designed to vilify Trump and those in his administration as traitors to the country.

Given this toxic environment, in some cases, the murderously disdainful environment, that leftists in academia, Hollywood, the media, and Congress have promoted, it is unsurprising that some hate-filled person would decide to get in on the game by gunning down a bunch of Republicans.

What is surprising is that shootings of the type that occurred this morning in Alexandria, Virginia haven’t been occurring more frequently.

Among the things the left has given America is the return of political violence in 2017.  The mass shooting in Alexandria seems to be a product of this.

Of course, thus far, no leftist commentator or “journalist” is speaking to the role that their ideology likely played in this.  What the talking heads in the media have told us, though, is that the shooter was described as a “white middle-aged man.”  Ah. This is telling:  Whenever there’s a case of Islamic terrorism, say, or of black-on-nonblack crime, these same folks who trip over themselves in their rush to identify the whiteness of suspected criminal perpetrators are conspicuously silent on the matter of race.

All too predictably, there are already those on the left who are exploiting the gunning down of Republican lawmakers for their political agenda. Twitter is aglow with tweets about Steve Scalise’s refusal to support gun “controls” and his willingness to accept money from the NRA. Here’s one by “Katrina” or “silentkpants”: “Steve Scalise supported bills to loosen gun restrictions, opposed controls, & accepted $7, 450 from NRA.” This tweeter then adds: “My thoughts & prayers are with him.”

Though this remark doesn’t deserve to be dignified with a response—it’s irrational and disingenuous on multiple levels—I will briefly address it anyhow:

(1)As of this point, we do not yet know whether the shooter legally owned the weapon that he used.  He could have obtained it through the black market or stolen it.  And this brings us to our next point:

(2)Even had guns of the sort allegedly used in Virginia been completely banned, this would only create that much larger of a black market.  That is to say, just like the plethora of drugs that are criminalized but which remain very much available to those who desire them, guns of all sorts will remain very much available to those who want them. Restrictions on the Second Amendment guarantee this.

(3) Because of (1) and (2), it is offensive, both intellectually and morally, to think that Scalise is somehow reaping what he sowed in opposing “controls” and accepting money from the NRA.

Again, details are still murky.  However, to repeat, that leftists have mainstreamed hatred of their opponents and legitimized political violence can easily explain how Republicans became targeted for death while practicing for an annual Congressional baseball game.

Republicans and all decent folks should indeed capitalize upon this outrage as a teachable moment, the moment when the remotely sober-minded, and perhaps even some of the haters, may recognize the dangerousness of the environment that their noxious words have contributed to creating.

 

 

Barack Hussein Obama is no longer POTUS.  The Fake News media, Democrat virtually to a man and woman, is tireless in its demonization of President Donald J. Trump.

Thus, it is all too easy to think that Obama is no longer relevant.

But, considering that Obama and his supporters want for nothing more than to protect his “legacy,” it is indeed critical that Americans of all political stripes never forget the real Obama presidency—as opposed to the fiction that the Fake Newsies will labor indefatigably to ensconce in the American imagination.

Consider foreign policy: Obama’s supporters and opponents alike would have us think that Obama was dovish in this regard.

Recall that, while campaigning for the presidency in 2007, after the Iraq War was recognized for the disaster that it undoubtedly was, Obama billed himself as a “peace” candidate. He assured the electorate that he would have voted against the war, had he been in Congress four years earlier.

And then, shortly after his inauguration in ’09, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Over the span of his eight years in office, however, the “peace” candidate proved himself to be the most pro-war President in American history:

By the end of Obama’s second term, he had ordered 100,000 airstrikes on seven countries.  The peace President far exceeded his warmongering predecessor, George W. Bush, who leveled “only” 70,000 bombs and missiles on five countries during his eight years in office.

President Obama presided over a ten-fold increase in drone strikes, killing thousands and thousands. Among this number are included four Americans.  For this last, the ACLU (hardly a right-wing organization) charged the President with violating the United States Constitution. Ralph Nader—again, no conservative or reactionary—blasted Obama for being no different than Bush insofar as he self-regarded as “secret prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner” with “the unilateral right…to destroy anybody, anywhere in the world, including American citizens, suspected to be engaged in alleged terrorist activities [.]”

Obama’s Military Budget for FY2017 was larger than that of any other President, and it exceeded that of Bush II’s by nearly $30 million.  No post-WWII POTUS had increased the military budget to the extent that Obama had.  On average, the 44th POTUS had spent about $653.6 billion annually—an average of 18.7 billion more than what Bush II had authorized.

Nor do these numbers ignore the rate of inflation. Nicolas J.S. Davies writes:

“In historical terms, after adjusting for inflation, Obama’s military spending has been 56 percent higher than Clinton’s, 16 percent higher than Reagan’s, and 42 percent more than the US Cold War average.” The latter point is particularly telling in that, as Davies reminds us, exorbitant military budgets during the Cold War period were justifiable inasmuch as America had “a real peer competitor” in the Soviet Union.

Contemporary Russia, in glaring contrast, spends only ten percent of what America spent on the military during Obama’s tenure.

Davies also reminds us that Obama presided over “a massive expansion of US special operations forces, now deployed to 138 different countries [.]”  At the time that he first took office, these forces were in 60 countries.  “Kill or capture” raids increased astronomically under Obama, from 90 in November of 2009 to 600 per month by the summer of 2010 and 1,000 in April of 2011.

Obama’s covert forces have claimed the lives of “hundreds of academics and other professionals and community leaders” in Iraq.

Some estimates are that over 2 million lives have been extinguished in America’s post-9/11 wars.  Obama, of course, is not responsible for all of them. But given the foregoing truths, it goes without saying that he has the blood of untold thousands on his hands.  Some of this blood is that of terrorists and jihadists, for sure.  However, much of it is that of those who comprise the “civilian support mechanism,” those who provide supplies for guerillas, and those who simply didn’t want America in their country.

Although Obama dropped fewer bombs and missiles on Afghanistan than did Bush (26,000 and 37,000, respectively), the man who declared victory in Iraq by withdrawing ground troops and creating the vacuum for ISIS to fill, dropped an astronomical 41,000 bombs and missiles on Mesopotamia just between 2014 and 2016 alone.  Bush, though, over a five year period, dropped about 8,000 fewer instruments of death.

Davies reminds us that Obama dropped nearly 25,000 bombs and missile upon Syria, “7,700 in NATO and its Arab monarchist allies’ bombing of Libya in 2011, another 496 strikes in Libya in 2016, and at least 547 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.”

For his launching of military operations in Libya, members of Congress brought a bipartisan lawsuit against Obama.  This effort was led by Democrat Dennis Kucinich and Republican Walter Jones. Kucinich said: “This is not an academic question.  This is about stopping a war now.”

In 2010, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Obama gave a no-bid contract to the now infamous defense contractor, Halliburton.

In 2011, Obama extended Bush’s “Patriot Act.”  This same year, Obama once again came under fire by the ACLU for having signed a bill that would carry on the Bush administration’s practice of indefinitely detaining American citizens suspected of, but not charged with, having committed any criminal activities.

In 2009, under the pretext of “national security,” Obama resorted to the same legal and moral rationales of which Bush availed himself when seeking to extend the NSA’s practice of conducting warrantless surveillance of Americans.

And let us never forget that Obama, despite having assured his supporters on the campaign trail that, “As president, Barack Obama will close the detention facility at Guantanamo,” failed to do any such thing.

Today, nearly nine years after he was elected to presidency, Guantanamo remains open.  ABC News said that this could be Obama’s “biggest broken promise.”

As this article has shown, and as others will further show, the 44th POTUS left a sea of broken promises.

We must never forget.