Fox sent me a link to a news story about Jim David Adkisson and the discovery of writing by such right-wing darlings as Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage in Adkisson’s home. Adkisson’s attack last week on the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was, apparently, fueled by his hatred of left-wing politicians … which hatred seems to have been fueled by the likes of O’Reilly, Hannity and Savage. Adkisson chose to attack just regular people because he couldn’t attack the pols; he chose his victims based on the fact that the church is known for its commitment to social justice and equality.
Should we be surprised that something like this could happen? Please don’t misunderstand. I’m appalled every time a story like this appears on the news. How could I not be? But am I surprised that this is where we’ve come to … again? Not so much, not as much as I should be or as much as I want to be. Stories like this one starkly illustrate what can happen when we let ourselves become as divided as we’ve become in recent years. Oh, I know there are many, many contributing factors to what happened last week in Tennessee. Of course. But we have been so hell-bent on seeing ourselves as red or blue, proclaiming so loudly the deep rift in our country, the irreconcilable differences that separate the east and west coasts (and a few isolated characters in between) from the vast center of the country.
We know this is stupid. We know it’s not even true. We know that we are more shades of purple than red or blue. We know it, but we let the haranguing continue. It sells papers, it gets bigger market share on cable news, it has made O’Reilly and Hannity and others famous. It makes for lots of comedy on the Daily Show. And you and I and the people we know are smart enough to see all this for what it is, to see through the bluster, the jokes, the hyperbole.
But then there are people like Jim David Adkisson.
So where does responsibility lie?