This commentary from Peggy Noonan Is a worthwhile read:
We are all free to say what we think, and must be, for without this freedom we will no longer be America. More on that below. But you always hope what is said will be constructive, helpful, maybe even at some point heartening. You have a responsibility as an adult to do your best in this area.
But as soon as the story broke Wednesday afternoon, and while it was still going on, there were accusations and bitter words flung all over the Internet. The weirdest argument came almost immediately. A person named Chris Murphy, who is a U.S. senator representing Connecticut, sent out what struck me as the most manipulative message of recent political history.
The background is that Republican presidential contestants responded online to the shootings with the only helpful thing you can say—or do, frankly, from faraway—when a story like this occurs. “Praying for the victims, their families & the San Bernardino first responders,” said Jeb Bush. Mike Huckabee said he was “praying.” John Kasich: “My thoughts & prayers go out to those impacted.”
This managed to enrage the progressive left. You can take your prayers and stuff ’em. The answer and the only answer to this tragedy is gun control, and if you’re not for it you’re not allowed to be part of the conversation. “Please shut up and slink away,” tweeted a reporter. Another: “Your thoughts and prayers don’t mean a damn thing.” A reporter at the Huffington Post damned public officials’ “useless thoughts and prayers.” Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos: “How many dead people did those thoughts and prayers bring back to the life?”
All this immediately won a name: “prayer shaming.”
Here’s an odd thing. If you really are for some new gun-control measure, if you are serious about it, you just might wait a while, until the blood has cooled, for instance, and then try to win people over to see it your way. You might offer information, argument, points of persuasion. Successful politics involves pulling people together. You don’t use a tragedy to shame and silence those who don’t see it your way; that only hardens sides. Which has left me wondering if gun-control proponents are even serious about it. Maybe they’re just using their wedge issue at a moment of high stress to hammer people on the other side of the ideological and philosophical divide.
As long as they do this, they’ll lose. Which they must be bright enough to know. Which again suggests either cynicism or, perhaps, an assumption that they are so inarguably right that they’re above debate. They certainly point their fingers from a great height. A number of tweets and posts had an air of, “You better be asking your make-believe friend in heaven for mercy.”
I suspect part of the problem is that a number of the progressive finger-pointers do not really know what a prayer is. Maybe no one ever told them. But prayer is a very active endeavor—it takes time, energy, concentration. You have to stop everything and ask God to hear you. Father Gerald Murray defined it for me this way: “Prayer is the movement of our mind, heart and soul in which we confess our belief in God and his goodness. We ask him to manifest that goodness in answer to our petitions.”
A connected point, it seems to me, is that Americans are growing weary of being told what they can and cannot publicly say, proclaim and think. We all know what’s going on at the colleges, with the mad little Marats and Robespierres who are telling students and administrators what they are and are not allowed to say or do. This is not just kids acting up at this point, it’s a real censorship movement backed by an ideology that is hostile to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is led by students who, though they managed to get into the greatest universities in the country, seem never to have been taught to love the little amendment that guarantees free speech and free religious observance, the two pillars without which America collapses. And too bad, because when you don’t love something you lose it.
It is my impression that what is happening on the campuses is starting to break through as a real threat to what used to be called normal Americans.
There’s been a great gnashing of veneered teeth by the Republican establishment about Donald Trump and his so far unstoppable rise. That rise rests on two issues: opposition to illegal immigration to the U.S. and an obvious and visceral rejection of political correctness and the shaming and silencing it entails.
Mr. Trump, interestingly, has more or less stopped talking about issues, even his issues, and amuses himself by entertaining audiences. You get the impression he’s trying to keep himself awake.