For the second time our area has produced someone who attacked our nation’s seat of power.
In 1998 Rusty Weston Jr., of Valmeyer, shot and killed two U.S. Capitol Police officers. He was schizophrenic and remains confined in a mental facility.
Wednesday, James T. Hodgkinson, of rural Belleville, shot Republican House Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisana, and others before he was shot by U.S. Capitol Police. There was something wrong with him, too, but exactly what we may never know.
So we go searching for answers, grasping for comforting thoughts.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, was at the baseball practice when Hodgkinson started shooting. He was shaken.
“We see stories about how policies are going to lead to the deaths of people. That’s political rhetoric that has run amok and has turned into hate and it may, may be the reason why we saw the senseless tragedy that we saw today. And if it is, this could be the first political rhetorical terrorist act that we’ve seen on our soil. And we can change that. Only we can change that.”
If it were only so simple. We all know it’s not.
Hodgkinson’s letters to the editor were printed on these pages. If their rhetoric showed clues to his future actions, it sure is not evident. His calls for higher taxes on the rich were mild compared to many other voices out there.
Even his recent social media posts pale against political posts from some of our “friends.”
But there was the horrific suicide of his foster daughter, who immolated herself after a high school boyfriend broke up with her. There also was the melee that apparently ended the guardianship of another young woman, with Hodgkinson punching her female friend and putting a shotgun in the face of a young man and shooting as he fled. There was recent target practice outside his home and suddenly living out of a gym bag in Virginia.
Compare those to 66 years of life that showed little indication that Hodgkinson was anything other than a contractor and home inspector.
Snippets. Scraps. Clues.
Explanations will elude us. We will fool ourselves with incomplete answers.
The gun control debate will erupt anew. There will be more about softening our political speech.
This event will fade. The wounds will heal.
The scars will shame some, remind others and change our perceptions of ourselves — at least until the next wound alters it again.