Otherization Nation

People gather near the scene of a shooting near a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, June 14, 2017, where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. was shot during a congressional baseball practice. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

We have to stop beating the snot out of one another. That thought kept running through my mind this morning as I drove into work listening to news of the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia.  Well, that thought and this song:


It’s fifty years old, but it’s eerily all-too-fitting today.

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Gunfire was probably the last thing on the minds of Congressional members and aides as they took the field this morning at a park in Alexandria to practice for tomorrow night’s Congressional Baseball game.  Just as it was for the witness who shot this raw video this morning (WARNING: Graphic, language):

The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois, was killed by Capitol Police, so he can’t elaborate as to his motives, though they certainly appear to be political.  Hodgkinson left enough breadcrumbs behind, via social media posts and letters to the editor of his hometown newspaper, to shed a fair amount of light on his views, even if not as to what specifically set him off this morning.

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Political discord is nothing new for our nation, of course. We have a long, and sometimes bloody, history of it. But there has been a perceptible shift in the way “everyday people” interact with one another in recent years. Everything — and everyone — seems exceptionally polarized. Virtually every aspect of life is viewed through the right-left lens.

As many others have noted, I believe the way in which we communicate and interact with our fellow citizens plays a huge role in that. We talk to (or, rather, at) one another through screens and keyboards more than face-to-face or ear-to-ear anymore. We lazily let selfies and memes and 140 characters speak for us. We size people up by what “team” they’re on — and allow them only two choices: “with” or “against.”

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Instinctive reactions to anything we find offensive (and there’s so much we find offensive) include boycotts and protests. And protests are so prevalent, they’re only notable when they devolve into violence and destruction.  We’ve seemingly forgotten how to converse with one another, talk through our differences, agree to disagree.


This morning, as news of the shooting came in, I saw and heard comments attributing it to vitriolic rhetoric and labels — “deplorables,” “xenophobes,” “bigots,” “racists,” “Repuglicans.” Ironically, I’ve seen and heard some of the very people identifying the role of that rhetoric in the violence turn right around and label their perceived “opponents” as “sub-human,” “libtards,” “cucks,” “Demoncrats.” We’ve perfected the art of otherizing each other, which in turn dehumanizes and thus legitimizes the very violence we purportedly decry.

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

And man, have we become skilled at pointing fingers.  It’s their fault. They started it.

So…how do we finish it? Those of us who aren’t okay with this daily, hourly, constant war with our fellow citizens? Maybe by acknowledging that we’re all, on some level, to blame. Or, if we’re unwilling to accept blame, at least take responsibility and do our part to stop this madness.


As many have observed, this morning’s practice was in preparation for tomorrow night’s Congressional Baseball game. Which, believe it or not, is a bipartisan effort over a century old.

-The idea is “Senate and House members of each party team up to settle scores and solidify friendships off the floor and on the field,” the Congressional Baseball Game’s website notes.

Some might question how politicians who seemingly can’t agree on a single thing are able to “solidify friendships.” For one thing, they play for a good cause — this is a charity event, this year designed to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, the Washington Literacy Center, and the Nationals Dream Foundation.

More importantly, these are people who, despite their public presence and pervasive use of social media, actually do, by the very nature of their role, interact with one another face-to-face on a regular basis. That truly does mitigate the tendency to otherize — and that despite the fact that they are, by definition, political creatures.

Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down


Yet they aren’t letting this tragedy win the day.

The game is on. There’s a call — from both/all sides — to unify. There’s an air of resolve. We need to build on that. We need to be better to one another.  We need to stop beating the snot out of one another. We need to quit otherizing one another. We need to remember the wise words of one of our greatest leaders:

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” — Abraham Lincoln



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