It’s like clockwork these days – shortly after tragedy strikes, some elected official somewhere turns it into a political talking point. Our candidate this time around is two-term Arkansas state Representative Nate Bell, who tweeted the following earlier this morning:
There’s so much wrong here, I don’t even know where to start. Not only is Rep. Bell making light of a very serious, very intense situation in Boston, he’s going so in the midst of tremendous confusion and uncertainty. I’m in complete agreement with Andrew Sullivan when he asked, “Is everything political? Can we not try just to understand first – before we exploit this tragedy for partisan or ideological reasons?” (Sullivan proceeded to nominate Bell for a Malkin Award, given for “shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric.”)
Bell later posted an apology on Facebook, but he misses the larger point. He seems to think that the only objectionable part of his tweet is the “when,” not the “what.” Setting aside that his comment only makes sense in reference to said tragedy; his tweet is not only insensitive, but condescending and insulting.
As we’ve seen in past months, gun control is quite the controversial topic. A lot of people have a lot of very strong opinions on the subject and are more than willing to express those opinions very loudly. And although some from both sides might disagree with me here, there are valid points on both sides, and that it’s a discussion we need to be having.
But belittling and insulting your opponents is the wrong way to go about it. I’m sure there was more than enough fear and uncertainty to go around in Boston last night, regardless of one’s political affiliation. There is absolutely no need to single out your political opponents as craven and hypocritical, and I think the citizens of Boston have shown that they are quite capable of responding to extraordinary circumstances without using assault rifles as teddy bears. Perhaps I'm just being optimistic, but I expect my public figures to lead in times of crisis, to bring the country together, not to sow discord and division.
But perhaps even more disappointing are the responses that Bell's tweet has provoked. As of writing this, 1,424 people have retweeted his original comment, and 292 have favorited it. A quick glance at Facebook and Twitter show a fierce and vitriolic reaction from liberals. More partisan division is the last thing we need at the moment. There will be more than enough time to analyze how the Boston Marathon bombings change the calculus of gun control at a later time. For now, still only days away from the tragedy itself, our attention is called to other, far more pressing issues.