Yesterday a single shot rang out in downtown Denver, Colorado, shattering the window of President Barack Obama’s campaign headquarters. Here’s the Reuter’s version of the story, filed last night at 11:18 p.m.:
(Reuters) - A gunshot was fired into President Barack Obama's downtown Denver re-election headquarters on Friday while campaign workers were inside but no one was struck, police said.
Denver Police Detective Raquel Lopez said a worker inside the office called police in mid-afternoon to report that a bullet had shattered a window pane.
"Right now, no one is in custody and investigators are looking at surveillance video to see if a vehicle can be identified," Lopez said.
Lopez said it was a single shot and no one inside was physically injured.
Detectives are not aware of any threats made to the campaign, but are exploring all possibilities, she said.
And here’s one of the comments below the story:
Welcome to the new Republican Party. They’re attracting a whole bunch of nutjobs. They feed ‘em lies and hate and this is what happens.
Note that there’s nothing in the story that mentions Republicans or nutjobs, yet that gives the author no pause. He seems perfectly happy in immediately jumping to conclusions about both the GOP and its ability to attract people who apparently have no compunction about blasting out storefront windows.
At least the comment limits itself to only a part of the Republican Party, the part he can somehow define as “nutjobs.” The next commenter isn’t so specific:
I would have to agree with that. It’s just a matter of time before this starts to happen everywhere. GOP needs to be held responsible.
I understand that our media are overrun with polarized commentary and that the GOP has done plenty to embarrass itself. But that combination in no way justifies painting nearly half the country with this particular brush. And, yes, I know... the extremists with the microphones happily do it every day. But that, too, is no justification. What's happening seems to be this: prejudice towards the right, from the left, has somehow become okay. And it feels like it's spreading (sometimes combined with a hypocritical sense of erudite superiority) with increasing rapidity.
Now we’re getting down to it, aren’t we? We see that some on the left can be just as prejudiced as some on the right. Feels a little like a pot-and-kettle moment to me. So: who's planning to hold that guy responsible, the guy who wrote that comment, the guy who is now contributing another tiny drop of poison into our political conversation?
There are crazies on the right. I get that. And they are certainly much louder (and maybe more numerous) than the crazies on the left. However, that doesn’t excuse the rapid urge to fill in the missing pieces of this story with deprecation and generalization. It’s uncivil, irresponsible, and just plain wrong.
(Oh: and here’s my ultimate insult… it’s something I would expect FOX to do…)
At the center of it all is this compulsion to react emotionally and to fill in an incomplete narrative in any way we can. We like stories with beginnings, middles, and endings. But to my dear friends on both sides I say this: sometimes you don’t get your stories all tied up in neat little once-upon-a-times, and when you decide for yourself how the story should go—and then broadcast it to others who will pick it up and amplify it, then you help nothing and no one.
In a day or two, or a week, or a month, we may find out that it was a “nutjob” from the right who shot out that window. Or we may find out it was a random shot from a kid out for a joyride. Or we may find out it was a crazed lover whose ex-girlfriend just happened to be an Obama volunteer. Or we may find out nothing at all. That’s okay.
Fight the urge to rush to judgment, please, especially when that judgment only attempts to force a badly cut piece into an incomplete puzzle and when, in doing so, it only heightens tension, prejudice, and hatred.