by Stuart Shepard
Here’s what surprised me most: The sheer number of people on social media who found it impossible to write “It’s wrong to shoot members of Congress” – without adding – “but…”
I was scanning the reaction to the news this week that a gunman targeted a baseball field full of Republican lawmakers practicing for a friendly game against their Democrat rivals.
I’ll share a few social media posts I saw, but out of mercy, I will not share their names:
“I’m very sorry these people were shot… I suppose it’s too much to think that this might be a learning experience…”
“Not happy that anyone was shot. The irony (given their position on gun laws) is inescapable, however.”
“Funny my thoughts were this is not good… (but I) bet they never thought a gun would have Sacalise in it’s sites. Swift recovery and I hope some mediation on gun laws.” (sic)
“I can’t muster empathy for them. I just can’t.”
“Congress has viciously turned on all of us. If they continue to ignore the needs of the people they best expect more of this.”
“These people who were shot, voted to be shot.”
Okay, so some of them skipped right past the “It’s wrong to shoot members of Congress” part. But these are all actual comments by ostensibly actual human beings on a rather gracious post by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that regularly opposes much of what conservative members of Congress stand for.
But some followers of SPLC took issue with that expression of goodwill. One example:
Here’s a question for you: How do you respond?
Do you match name-calling with name-calling? When dark money pays people to pick fights at conservative rallies, do you swing back? Do you respond to ALL CAPS COMMENT with ALL CAPS RETORT, YOU CHUCKLEHEAD!
Oh, I know, it’s tempting. I fight that urge all the time – with varying degrees of success.
But, I’m convinced of this: It’s best simply to reply with a winsome, unassailable argument. To treat our friends who would “slap you on the right cheek” with surprising, unmerited grace, respect and courtesy. Because, in the end, our ultimate goal is not to beat them, it’s to win them to our point of view. And the proper way to nudge them gently in the right direction is by being salt and light – as opposed to, say, a sledgehammer.
Here, let me show you an example. Here’s a winsome, unassailable argument that has no need for a clarifying remark, footnote or “but…”:
“It’s wrong to shoot members of Congress.”