We don’t yet know much about Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Robert Lewis Dear took the facility in a siege lasting five hours, killed three people and injured nine more.
As information trickles out, it seems increasingly likely that Dear was mentally unstable. His ex-wife said he looked much more unkempt on television than she knew him to be and “Something must have happened to him when he moved away, that’s all I know.” His record isn’t spotless, with arrests for animal cruelty and voyeurism. There are reports he was prone to hiding food in the woods and fond of skinny dipping.
For the Left, however, this isn’t about the scant facts we can state with certainty or even the possibility that we’re dealing with an incoherent or evil individual. No, the response from the Left is something else altogether, something best described as “furthering the narrative.”
See, while a source did tell media outlets Dear muttered something about “baby parts,” that doesn’t exactly support the assertion of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains President Vicki Cowart that “We’ve seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months That environment breeds acts of violence.”
Executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Dawn Leguens echoed this statement, using strikingly similar language (I’m sure they didn’t talk to one another before releasing their statements. They’d never collaborate on the narrative.): “One of the lessons of this awful tragedy is that words matter, and hateful rhetoric fuels violence. It’s not enough to denounce the tragedy without also denouncing the poisonous rhetoric that fueled it.”
Carly Fiorina Gives Us Some Perspective
Dear’s response to pro-life sentiments was decidedly anti-life. He may well turn out to have believed he was receiving orders from the little people in the television or the dogs in his neighborhood he so loathed, but at this juncture virtually everything is inference and assumption. To flatly assert motive, especially so nebulous a motive as “rhetoric,” is irresponsible.
Of course, the narrative isn’t about staid truth, but emotion. Wait, narrative? There’s no narrative, just objective truths pushing against right-wing lies. In other words, we knew the spin would happen.
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina knew it. In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Fiorina said attempts to attribute this attack to pro-lifers at large were an example of “typical left-wing tactics.”
Contrary to Cowart and Leguens, Fiorina also offered the best response to the tragedy, avoiding inference and assumption: “This is a tragedy. It’s obviously a tragedy—Nothing justifies this, and presumably this man who appears deranged, if nothing else, will be tried for murder as he should be, but it’s a tragedy especially on a holiday weekend.”
Fiery Rhetoric Obviously Causes Shooting Sprees
Now why would Fiorina denounce such strategies as typical left-wing tactics? Jose DelReal, a writer at the Washington Post and male model, offers an indirect clue in the opening paragraph to his article on how various GOP presidential candidates responded to the attack: “Several Republican presidential candidates on Sunday condemned the attack on a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs but stopped short of agreeing with liberal critics who say that fiery antiabortion rhetoric contributed to the shooting.”
That isn’t quite as bad as “When did you stop beating your wife?,” but it’s close. It’s especially close when you consider DelReal’s statement just a few paragraphs later: “Calls to defund Planned Parenthood through congressional action have escalated in recent months amid a protracted national debate about the ethics of collecting fetal tissue for research” and “That dialogue was cast in a grim light after reports that the suspected Colorado gunman is said to have used the phrase ‘no more baby parts’ while discussing his motives for the attack.”
The ethics of collecting fetal tissue? A “grim light?” DelReal obviously has no personal feelings on abortion access or Deal’s motivations. He obviously isn’t concerned with the narrative. I mean, there isn’t even a narrative. We never experience groupthink, especially groupthink pushed by those in positions of power. It never happens. Which brings us back to Carly.
Don’t Exploit Tragedies for Political Gain
If Dear is a pro-life nut, we have to acknowledge that. We have to own that he’ll be tied to us and explain why he isn’t one of us. We must defend our actual goals and explain that his actions are the opposite of what we seek. If he’s just a crazy person muttering about baby parts and chemtrails, then that doesn’t lessen the tragedy. As Fiorina said, “Any protesters should always be peaceful, whether it’s Black Lives Matter or pro-life protesters.”
Such language, such a clear and honest discussion of a tragedy—particularly before the facts are known—isn’t likely to change the narrative. There will still be those more invested in politics than in truth. But it does offer a stark contrast to the narrative, especially when people begin to sour on never letting a good tragedy go to waste.
At a vigil for the dead and wounded held at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Colorado Springs, one member stood and left when the conversation shifted to reproductive rights and the need for stricter gun control. “I thought we were here to grieve and mourn and not make political statements,” she said.
“It’s important to remember the people who face harm’s way every day because of the obscene access we have to assault weapons in this community. If we do not recognize something must be done, then we have fallen short in honoring the lives of those who have been lost,” Nori Rost, All Saints’ senior minister, responded.
Yes, that’s it. Dear’s actions weren’t about him and what was going on in his head. They were about rhetoric and the problematic nature of the Bill of Rights. If we don’t recognize that, then we dishonor those who have died. It’s all so simple.
Ending Evil Means Ending Freedom
Except it’s not simple. Evil doesn’t make sense, and trying to find a reason for it is often futile. We should simply call it what it is—evil—and recognize that it is illogical and generally unstoppable. We should accept C.S. Lewis’ formulation: “God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”
Alas, for those who seek political ends from all means—those who don’t really grasp love or goodness or joy or any other thing except power—this truth doesn’t offer them a chance to denounce their opponents nor reasons to increase the size and scope of government. It is too ethereal and not as malleable as they would like.
At the end of “Midnight of the Garden of Good and Evil,” Jim Williams, a southern art dealer of a different sort than Deal, was accused of murdering his lover in a fit of rage. He maintained it was an act of self-defense and was found not guilty in a jury trial. Journalist John Kelso, who covered the trial and became friends with Williams, asked after the verdict what really happened on that fateful night. Williams smiled slyly and told him, “Sport, truth, like art, is in the eye of the beholder. You believe what you choose and I’ll believe what I know.”
When it comes to tragedies like those in Colorado Springs, truth unfortunately is in the eye of the beholder. Even if Deal stops muttering, it will remain there. At the end of the day, we’ll be left with nothing to believe but what we can piece together from the event and his statements, while the Left will believe what it knows.
Given the Left knew what they believed even before the shooting, we all have to be a bunch of Fiorinas. We have to be calm and dedicated to the truth, be firm and respectful, and refuse to accede to the narrative. The alternative is to let evil determine the conversation and the state deprive us of anything worth having.