AR-15 assault rifle, types of which were reportedly found in the Las Vegas shooter's hotel room. Photo by Chris Browning/Gun News Daily/Creative Commons

Don't politicize Las Vegas?

(RNS) — As night follows day and summer gives way to fall, so it was inevitable that Pat Robertson would have something to say about the massacre in Las Vegas. Speaking Monday (Oct. 2) on "The 700 Club," where 16 years ago he and Jerry Falwell blamed "the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians" for 9/11, he declared:

Violence in the streets, ladies and gentlemen. Why is it happening? The fact that we have disrespect for authority; there is profound disrespect for our president, all across this nation they say terrible things about him. It’s in the news, it’s in other places. There is disrespect now for our national anthem, disrespect for our veterans, disrespect for the institutions of our government, disrespect for the court system. All the way up and down the line, disrespect.

The cause of this disrespect, said Robertson, is that "we have taken from the American people the vision of God, the whole idea of reward and punishment, an ultimate judge of all our actions, we’ve taken that away." Paraphrasing Proverbs 29:18, he concluded, "When there is no vision of God, the people run amok.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt made better use of that proverb — and quoted it accurately — in blaming "the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods" for the Great Depression in his first inaugural address:

Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored conditions. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers.

They have no vision, and "when there is no vision the people perish."

The money changers have fled their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths.

There's prophetic presidential language for you.

But either way, when a bad thing happens, it's normal and customary to focus on who and what may have caused it — and not, as Donald Trump and his confederates have done, to act as if this is causeless "pure evil," as if the only thing to do is to comfort the afflicted and bring us together, as if we are forbidden to — God forbid! — "politicize" it by talking about doing something to prevent it happening again.

It's as if, after Pearl Harbor, America First isolationists had said, "Now is not the time to politicize the tragedy and declare war on the perpetrators. We must come together as a people and comfort the families of those who perished in the attack."

But when the evident causes conflict with the interests of their big donors, be it the National Rifle Association or the Koch brothers, the GOP nowadays goes all kumbaya. Take Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who last month scolded those who presumed to talk about how global warming has contributed to the strength of hurricanes this season for being "very, very insensitive to this people in Florida."

Actually, the parallelism is pretty precise. While we cannot blame particular hurricanes on climate change, we can say that the warming of ocean temperatures has increased their intensity. While we cannot blame particular shooting incidents on the decline of gun control, we can say that their intensity has been increased by the availability of assault weapons.

Curiously, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, one of the president's top evangelical advisers, might have been thinking about climate change on Monday when he wrote in his Washington Update that Las Vegas was "tragic for America, a country that has felt the intensity and frequency of these attacks multiply faster than anyone could have imagined."

But Perkins, whose home in Baton Rouge, La., was destroyed by massive flooding last year, pivoted quickly away from any hint that public policy might be in order: "It's time to recognize that the cure for violence isn't in Washington. It's in the hope and the healing offered through faith in God."

Because why would federal gun control legislation have anything to do with the intensity and frequency of gun violence in America?

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