It only takes hours. Minutes. Even seconds. With the viral nature of social media, virtually everybody has the ability to instantly see popular stories and headlines. And from there, people will naturally make rash inferences and jump to conclusions. This is especially dangerous in the wake of a national tragedy, where facts and certainty are initially scarce.
However, when people go to the lengths of politicizing an entire tragedy, the results are nothing but disrespectful and unhelpful.
It Trivializes the Tragedy
First of all, politicizing a national tragedy completely takes away from the tragedy itself. When we should be mourning victims and trying to help in our own small ways, the media turns a disaster into a climate change, gun control, or terrorism debate. Manipulating people’s emotions for political gain is already inching into immoral territory. But when the endless politicizing forgets to recognize the devastation and mourn, and instead uses people’s anguish to promote an agenda, it is completely disrespectful to the victims.
I also find it ridiculous and saddening when people- usually progressives- condescendingly disgrace those who offer their thoughts and prayers towards the victims. It is never inappropriate to take a moment to mourn losses and hope for the well-being of victims and bystanders. When these people attack those that express their concerns, it further trivializes the tragedy and the suffering people endure.
It Shifts the Blame
When we hear people or the media politicize a tragedy where there is a perpetrator involved, we almost never hear them treat him or her as an individual. Instead, the perpetrator is lumped into some other group. For instance, whenever there is a mass shooting, we hear that this is the fault of “poor gun control laws” and failed right-wing policy. Or when the perpetrator is Muslim, we hear that this is the fault of “a violent religion” and failed left-wing immigration policy.
This sort of rhetoric does absolutely nothing to help the situation. Instead of criticizing the individual and trying to objectively make judgments about why he/she did what he/she did, politicizing the tragedy often jumps to conclusions and reinforces negative stereotypes (i.e. of gun owners and Muslims). By blaming external factors for the tragedy, this partially shifts the blame away from the perpetrator. “Sure, he may have done a bad thing, but those guns were too easy to obtain.” Or “sure, the event was tragic, but think of how it will affect the image of _____ people!” “This disaster was waiting to happen.”
So where does the blame go? As we have repeatedly seen, the blame can go to areas from Party policies to entire ideologies. Naturally, politicians love to manipulate the anger and fear of an entire nation to their political advantage. (This even works for disasters without a perpetrator. For instance, a hurricane season can easily be pinned on Republicans for not imposing more business regulations.)
When the focus should be healing and recovering from a national tragedy, pointing fingers is the last thing we need. Politicizing tragedy serves as little more than an opportunity to attack the other side and trivialize the actual devastation.