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I’ve never much liked the “you won’t believe what the liberal media just said” game. Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad other people are doing it. It’s just never been a big part of my portfolio. It seems a little too easy. If — like me and, I’d imagine, many of our readers — you find most of the Left’s more prominent talking heads these days to be intellectual flyweights, it rarely feels worth the candle.
That said, I do harbor a longstanding vendetta against pundits who feel no compunction about shoehorning their ideology into other people’s tragedies. Last year, for instance, I posted about Paul Krugman trying to score political points off of Tom Coburn’s cancer, as well as Maureen Dowd’s shameless attempt to get a column on Hillary Clinton out of Robin Williams’ suicide, both efforts I found utterly tasteless. Well, MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle — who, the few times I’ve seen him on TV, has struck me as crazy but not MSNBC crazy — rounded out the triumvirate this weekend. Barnicle’s newest Daily Beast column starts out as a seemingly thoughtful reflection on last week’s shooting in Charleston:
A week filled with terror and trauma carried out by a sociopath, a 21-year-old racist named Dylann Roof seemed to conclude with a prayer in the form of the simple, eloquent words of Nadine Collier, whose 70-year-old mother, Ethel Lance, was one of nine dead among the pews of the Emmanuel African Methodist Church Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C.: “You took something very precious away from me,” Ms. Collier said to the killer in a courtroom where a bond hearing was held for Roof. “I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
What is forgiveness? An emotion? A coping mechanism? An element of deepest faith? A way for the heart and soul to combat the type of hate, anger, rage and a thirst for revenge that could ultimately consume a person? All of those and more?
That could be the opening of a serious analysis of one of the most profound moral exercises human beings are capable of performing.
Only three paragraphs later, however, we’re here:
Politicians in Washington work in a small, sheltered world where they lurch from crisis to crisis that they create, nurture and use as ideological triggers in their selfish pursuit of re-election. The country stumbles forward, slowly but surely, only because the people are so much better, stronger and more capable than those we elect.
Barnicle’s hangup here is that guns are too easy — and treatment for mental illness too hard — to access. It’s a little gauche, to be sure — and it’s not helped any by the dumb, empty-calorie populism — but at least you can see the connective tissue.
Here, however, is where we end up in the final three paragraphs of the piece. I repeat — the very same piece:
Within days, perhaps this week, the United States Supreme Court will decide whether health insurance subsidies currently offered by the Affordable Care Act to people in 37 states can continue. If the court gives it a thumbs down, the law dies and millions will be stripped of health insurance. This will be viewed as a huge victory for many Republicans and conservatives who have fought endlessly and mindlessly to kill a law, kill anything really, with Barack Obama’s name attached to it.
The fiercest opponents of more people getting greater access to health insurance coverage have offered no real alternative. But this is nothing new for them and it extends beyond health care. Their goal is to obstruct. Their result is carnage and chaos and a governing system that is broken. And they have a succeeded.
In Charleston, S.C., one woman—Nadine Collier—in an incredible gesture offered forgiveness to a man filled with evil. Nobody knows if history will offer forgiveness or even understanding to those public people who have dropped their duty to a country in need of many things but perhaps most of all, simply a dose of common sense.
Oh. My. God.
It is a feat that Barnicle is so intellectually double-jointed as to even work out the mechanics of constructing such an essay. But then to marry that to the sort of moral blindness that thinks, “This mass slaughter is the perfect filter through which to discuss a Supreme Court case on statutory construction”? That’s crassness at a positively Olympian scale.
For his sake, it’s probably a good thing that Mike Barnicle got a head start on thinking about forgiveness.