Gov. Dannel P. Malloy jumped back into the national fray last week, describing the “drumbeat” of heated political rhetoric around Planned Parenthood as “disgraceful” following a recent mass shooting at a facility in Colorado Springs and calling once again for strong control of guns. If only anyone who could do something about any of that had been listening.
There’s an old story about King Canute, the 11th century king of England, Norway, and Denmark, in which the king sets up his throne at the edge of the water and orders the tide to halt. He gets his feet wet, of course, making the point to his foolish courtiers that even the power of kings is limited.
I’m writing this while watching coverage of yet another mass shooting, this time in San Bernandino, CA. I remember when we used to be shocked and horrified by this sort of thing. Now it’s just routine. People are angry, frustrated, afraid, and weary of it all, but no one seems to be able to stop it.
It feels like we’re being drowned by an incoming tide of violence. But this tide isn’t a natural thing; it’s born out of fear, hateful words, hysteria, and absurdly easy access to guns.
President Obama has constantly called for stricter gun controls, but the Republican majority in Congress has blocked even the smallest of reforms. In fact, Congress may be part of the problem, at least in the case of the Planned Parenthood shooting.
Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards blamed the rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates for helping create the sort of climate in which the Colorado Springs shootings took place, saying that “[p]eople have to understand that hateful rhetoric and words and harassment of doctors and harassment of women going to health centers have real implications,” she said. Congress had opened hearings on Planned Parenthood after several heavily-edited videos emerged appearing to show people at the organization selling fetal tissue.
Is there a connection between the constant toxic rhetoric and a mass shooting? Right now, it sure seems that way. What’s been said about Planned Parenthood is pretty disgusting, especially from the presidential candidates. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said Planned Parenthood is an “ongoing criminal enterprise,” and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie referred to the “. . . systematic murder of children in the womb to preserve their body parts.”
The shooter, who some have been labeling as a terrorist, was apparently murmuring things about “baby parts.”
Into all of this wades Dan Malloy. “There are governors disgracing their offices, senators, and [presidential] candidates sliding into this kind of rhetoric,” Malloy said. “The number one thing we can do in America is to stop telling lies and distorting.”
Malloy lately has been calling for more gun control. He also visited a mosque in Meriden to offer solidarity after someone took a shot at the building, and he was almost alone among governors in this country in assuring Syrian refugees that Connecticut was open to them.
There’s two angles to this.
First, there’s the political angle — supporting refugees and blasting Republican rhetoric around Planned Parenthood shines the national spotlight on Malloy, which helps him as he prepares to take his turn at the head of the Democratic Governor’s Association. It also helps him with a group that hasn’t always supported him — namely, progressives in Connecticut and elsewhere. He’ll be on talk shows and cable news to talk about it, and he’ll get plenty of mentions on political Twitter. Sure.
But this doesn’t feel like it’s only political for Malloy. He speaks with genuine passion about gun control, supporting refugees and keeping Planned Parenthood funded and safe, and he’s always been more than willing to jump into the fray over these and other social issues the progressive left feels strongly about. This seems to be an important part of who he is, and that’s the other angle.
Really, what Malloy is doing is taking a stand against fear. That’s important. I’ve been watching as this country slowly but surely gives in, a little more at a time, to our fears. That’s why a guy like Donald Trump can tell lies about Muslims cheering 9/11 in Jersey City and hold steady in the polls. That’s why Ted Cruz wants to build a wall along the Mexican border. That’s why someone opened fire on a Black Lives Matter protest, and why too many Americans don’t want Syrian refugees to come here — for no good reason at all.
Fear is also why people buy so many guns.
I’m glad Malloy is taking a stand at the water’s edge. But that awful tide continues to rise, and there’s no telling how deep it’ll get before it stops.
Susan Bigelow is an award-winning columnist and the founder of CTLocalPolitics. She lives in Enfield with her wife and their cats.
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