It is time to try to dial back the anger

We’re deeply thankful that Costello, Meehan and Smucker are OK after DC shooting

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Rep. Ryan Costello (R-6) should have been at his usual perch, at shortstop, next to Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Wednesday morning, when a lone gunman opened fire on Republican congressman and staffers Wednesday morning — but he missed his ride by a couple of minutes.

The congressmen and staffers were there to get ready for the annual charity baseball game at Nationals Park tonight — Republicans versus Democrats — which is one of things I always felt that Washington gets right.

Pat Meehan (R-7) who pitches for the GOP team, had to be somewhere else that morning, and also missed the gun fire. Lloyd Smucker (R-16) is not, as far as we know, part of the baseball team and his office confirmed Wednesday that he was not there.

While we offer our thoughts and prayers for those wounded, we must offer deep thanks that none of our local officials were hurt. While we certainly don’t agree with them (or them with us, either) some of the time, they are hard-working, basically good folks who spend countless hours working on our behalf.

In recent months, I’ve given both Costello and Meehan a hard time about failing to hold public town hall meetings — allowing an unfiltered opportunity to hear from their constituents. While I still think it is important, I allow that I might well have underestimated the risk level for them to do so, as Wednesday’s shooting has borne out.

From yesterday’s event to the shooting of Gabby Giffords, we need to start asking ourselves some questions — first and foremost, why are we as a people so angry? The vast majority of folks can manage it without resorting to violence, but if you deal with people, you see a deep undercurrent of anger among a wide swath of people. Party affiliation doesn’t much seem to matter — there’s a sense that things are going deeply wrong and we can’t fix it.

Yes, some of the blame for the anger falls on cable TV news, which generates ratings from conflict and vilifying the other side. Some comes from a world where the rest of the more respectable media is fractured (granted, self-inflicted wounds) and weakened by Google and Facebook starving us for revenue and page views. Meanwhile crap sites (you know them because all of the headlines are in SCREAMING CAPITAL letters declaring whomever you want to hate is about to destroyed) run off with the money and page views and we end up more angry, more confused and more unable to agree on basic facts.

And yes, both parties have benefited from using rage to fundraise. As I get pitches from both parties — the techniques are the same, using anger to gin up cash and support — it seems even more transparent and destructive.

That’s some of it.

And yeah, corporate America has merged its way into a reality where either your job is outsourced or you have to work 70 hours a week to keep it (and be ready to respond to your boss 24/7 via smartphone), which also has people seething.

Lastly, things have changed so rapidly, so much on the tech frontier I covered for more than a decade, that it is almost impossible to keep up, leaving folks confused and unable to find their bearings.

There’s other reasons — but you get the idea. As a group, we’re not happy campers.

I’m not naive enough to suggest we all close arms and find a way to agree with each other, because we won’t and we never have as a people. There are big issues of the day on which there is reasonable and deep disagreement — hardly a departure from our history.

What we do need to do is to remember that the other guy is a person, too, not some evil creature looking to do you harm. We need to talk to each other, figure out where common ground is and work for that. We can’t justify our own misbehavior by citing misbehavior by others.

Violence? That solves nothing. Ever.

Let’s try talking — for real.

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