A few better-informed-than-me colleagues told me the gunman in the latest mass shooting, at a baseball diamond where Republican lawmakers and others were practicing for the annual congressional baseball game, had shared at least one of my cartoons on his Facebook page last year. And a commenter here at The Post asked Wednesday: “Tom Toles A direct question. Do you recognize your hate speech and recto-rate results in a violate response from those you incident. I truly wonder if you have the integrity to respond. Probably not. The public awaits.”
Well, putting aside the commenter’s grammar and spelling, yes, I will respond.
Like all Americans, I condemn the violence against elected officials as a vicious attack against fellow citizens, and also on our government and our democracy. And the suffering caused by the attack is shared by all of us. Period.
And as to the rest, I have an additional response.
First of all, my speech is not hate speech. I do not hate Donald Trump. I am genuinely and grievously worried for American democracy that such an individual is president. And, yes, I have said, and continue to believe, that because of who he is and the actions he has taken and the statements he has made, the only proper course of action is that he be removed from office, by legal means, as soon as possible. That is called expressing an opinion in a democracy and, no, it is not an incitement to violence.
I also believe that whatever the ideology or “reasons” given by a mass shooter, it is never normal behavior, and issues of emotional dysfunction are always a significant part of the cause.
I also believe that the easy availability of firearms in the United States, and the resulting number of weapons in general circulation, makes this type of act more likely.
I have indeed used strong language in my assessment of President Trump. And, yes, I am willing to “look in the mirror” and think about the significance of that. Words have consequences. And that is the reason I have used strong words. The assault on reason and facts, by words, is one of the hallmarks of the distorted and dangerous political atmosphere we live in. Trump has repeatedly said that the media in the United States is deliberately creating fake news, and is the “enemy.” Trump has said that climate science is a hoax. These words have consequences. One statement is a direct assault on one of the primary pillars of a functioning democracy. The other is an attack on the welfare of every single future American.
And as to the question of incitement of violence, let’s indeed look at that. I am opposed to violence in just about every instance. But there are those who specifically define gun ownership as a tool of violence intended for potential use against the government. I have written here before about the dangers of this line of thinking. And it is not an isolated phenomenon, as it has been championed by a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Those words have consequences.
I have indeed thought carefully about these very serious issues. Because of the nature of my job, I think about them nearly every day. Maybe this time all Americans will remember to think about violence, about hatred, about the precious and fragile nature of democracy and civil discourse more seriously after the pain of this tragedy fades. And take steps to work together to solve them, rather than just pay them pious lip service for the occasion.