Hours after the announcement of the death of Mollie Tibbetts, politicians began to politicize the horrible event. Unfortunately, this has become the normal response in the U.S. to any tragedy.
Tibbetts, a 20 year-old college student, was missing for thirty-five days before the man arrested for her disappearance, Cristhian Bahena Rivera, led authorities to her body. When news broke that Rivera was not in the U.S. legally, Republicans used it as a calling card for renewed debate over stricter immigration laws.
Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, sent out a statement that evening.
“We are angry that a broken immigration system allowed a predator like this to live in our community, and we will do all we can bring justice to Mollie’s killer,” said Reynolds.
U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst gave a joint statement that same night saying that Tibbetts’ death could have been prevented by a stronger immigration policy.
“Too many Iowans have been lost at the hands of criminals who broke our immigration laws. We cannot allow these tragedies to continue,” the statement said.
These statements took place just hours after Tibbetts’ death was announced. But here in the US, this is not a new occurrence. For example, mass shootings are immediately followed by renewed gun control debates.
Just hours after the shooting in Las Vegas in 2017, former Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, took to Twitter. She not only offered her sympathy to the victims but also wasted no time in calling for renewed gun control laws. In her tweet she directly attacks the National Rifle Association (NRA) stating that the policies of the NRA would result in more innocent lives being lost.
Due to politicization, tragedies seem to only draw the left and the right further apart, while the faith citizens hold in national institutions continues to dwindle. Politicization rejects the basic concepts of healthy civil discourse. It divides people into distinct groups who are unable to communicate with one another.
A political agenda is constantly present, meaning that people will disagree on simple facts because the one who said it is either on the left or the right. Political polarization has worn away the preexisting norms of politics that made the nation governable.
Politicization is not something we need from our leaders. It has become almost second nature for those on both the left and right to advocate calls to action to advance partition policies. Ultimately, these calls produce no real solution and fall into oblivion in a matter of weeks.
It’s important to understand what people mean when they accuse a politician of politicizing a tragedy. In today’s climate, it seems that it only pertains to a politician if you do not agree with the agenda and policies being pushed by the tragedy. For instance, Republicans do not believe that politicians are politicizing Mollie Tibbetts’ death whereas Democrats do. It’s about conflicting ideologies.
Perhaps it is because of social media and fast paced news outlets that tragedies are politicized. People do not want to wait for information and the facts of a tragedy before releasing their opinion and understanding of the event. They speculate and make egregious claims about an entire group of people based upon one individual and limited information.
Unfortunately, tragedies like the death of Mollie Tibbetts happen far too frequently. However, the divisive nature of politicization needs to have a limit. When a tragedy occurs one side always claims that those who disagree do not care as much about those impacted by the incident.
Republicans, in this case, claim that Democrats do not care about the protection of American citizens and only desire to protect illegal immigrants. On the other side, Democrats portray Republicans, in the politicization of mass shootings, as a heartless group that cares more about owning AR-15s than about the lives of children.
Just because someone has different beliefs than you does not mean that they are less empathetic to victims.
The last tragedy that took place before extreme politicization was 9/11. When this event occurred, American flags flew off the shelves because they were being flown across the country. People went to New York to help those in need. Americans came together to help one another.
Now, when something as common as murder occurs, the entire nation goes into a frenzy to promote their political agenda. It is no longer about helping those in need, it is about shaming all who disagree with your particular ideology, while pushing for an agenda out of pure emotion and a lacking factual basis.
Your first reaction to a tragedy should be how you can help the victims and the survivors. It should not be to place blame upon an entire group because they have a differing ideology.
It is easy to get carried away by the emotions of a tragedy like the death of Mollie Tibbetts. It is a horrible incident that should not have happened – it makes you feel saddened and helpless. However, it is not an invitation for you to advance your political agenda.
Photo courtesy of Powshiek County Sheriff’s Office.