'We choose both'
It's difficult to not to draw comparisons sometimes in life. This week perhaps exemplified some of our worst human tendencies when a train loaded with Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Steve King, Sen. Joni Ernst and southwestern Iowa's Rep. David Young, collided with a garbage truck near Charlottesville, Virginia. I would like to say the masses didn't disappoint with their responses, but they did.
While some comments were civil, some of the first responses I saw to the destruction were wishes for more death and destruction, particularly for the deaths of the Republicans on board the train. A passenger inside the truck was confirmed dead and, frankly, that's tragic enough for me, because it's a human life that was lost. Evidently, that wasn't enough for some. Of course, it's easy for people to say such calloused things online with the clickity clack of a few keys, but I'm ashamed that we've reached a point where it's easy for us to wish death and destruction on our fellow man without a second thought. The road between our immediate impulses and our screens is far too short and used far too often.
Back in June, Republican lawmakers were attacked by a gunman on a baseball field. The gunman was killed and I wrote a column at that time cautioning anyone who found a human's death to be cause for celebration. Perhaps, at the time I didn't make it clear just how widely that concept should be applied, so let me be clear.
We should not be wishing death on Republicans.
We should not be wishing death on anyone for that matter, regardless of party affiliation. We should seek preservation of human life in this country and around the world. We should seek preservation of the lives of our enemies, our friends, our opposition and our support, because they are human just as much as we are.
I'm sure some of the commenters were under the delusion that more lives lost would create a power vacuum to be filled by people carrying their ideology of choice. And that's just it. Differing ideals are what cause opposition, and ideals don't die in train wrecks — people do. We've come to a point where we're confusing ideology with humanity, and we are all too willing to believe we can bury both in the same grave.
But we're wrong.
I challenge us all with the words of District 4 Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy's who responded to last week's State of the Union address. Kennedy said the current administration is turning the American life into a zero-sum game where one must lose in order for another to win — choosing between support for healthcare or support for Dreamers, choosing between coal miners or single mothers, rural communities or cities, the coasts or the plains — as if a rivalry must exist.
I'll add one more pair to Mr. Kennedy's list — Democrats or Republicans.
I'll admit there is animosity between the two, but there doesn't have to be. We don't have to hold so tight to our primary colors we yearn for our fellow human beings to die. We can support people while opposing ideals. We can love the left and the right for their humanity. I don't think Mr. Kennedy would disagree.
"Here is the answer Democrats offer tonight," Kennedy said during his response. "We choose both. We fight for both. Because the strongest, richest, greatest nation in the world shouldn't leave anyone behind."
So, I'll parallel my column from June. Continue to say you disagree with the other party's ideology. That's your right. Shout it from the rooftops. But don't call for more death and destruction when tragedy befalls human beings, especially when the lives lost are those of everyday people with families and friends, like you, like me, like our legislators, like a family in Kabul, like the Rohingya in Myanmar or like a man from Louisa County, Virginia, who didn't imagine he wouldn't return home Wednesday.