The current administration is quick to condemn fiery rhetoric and violent imagery, but only when it's directed at them.
President Donald Trump and his staff remain tellingly silent, even welcoming, to those who advocate violence against their opponents. It's a sign of self-serving values, of problematic double standards, and of a government run by a bully.
Rep. Al Baldasaro (R-New Hampshire) and former Trump adviser said last year that Hillary Clinton should be "put in the firing line and shot for treason" over her role in Benghazi, particularly her use of a private email server.
Yet he sat front and center at the signing of a bill on Friday afternoon, just hours after White House press secretary Sean Spicer called a modern update of the play Julius Caesar "troubling" for its title character's resemblance to Trump. He condemned the "lack of outrage" over the play's gruesome assassination scene featuring Trump/Caesar, which is a debate worth having until we see who's been invited to the White House.
The guy who called for Hillary Clinton to be shot last year was invited to Trump's bill signing at the WH today, per pooler @maggieNYT— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) June 23, 2017
Baldasaro was investigated by the Secret Service last year after his threatening words about Clinton, but Trump defended the man, insisting that, "Well, I didn’t know that but he’s a very fine person." The president has a history of getting cozy with people who like to use their right to free speech viciously, making his excuse lukewarm at best.
Country musician Ted Nugent spoke horrendously about then-President Barack Obama and was also investigated by the Secret Service, but Trump invited him to the White House in April.
The president himself has advocated violence and anti-Democratic acts, insinuating that Second Amendment enthusiasts should assassinate Clinton and fueling the rally chant "lock her up."
Recently, after the horrible shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise and four others by a former Bernie Sanders supporter, Trump surrogates slammed Democrats and said that their party's rhetoric promoted violence, but refused to turn the lens on themselves. Any point to be made was lost to hypocrisy.
Discussions about inflammatory political rhetoric and imagery are important and must be had if this political climate stands any chance of simmering down, but these debates must come with self-reflection from both sides. They must be paired with action guided by compassion and diplomacy, not pointed fingers.
Hopefully America will someday reach a point where we can have these discussions, but as long as people like Baldasaro are receiving invites to the White House, we're not there yet.