Yesterday’s shooting at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Family Research Council (FRC) stunned the nation. FRC’s long-time security guard, Leo Johnson, was shot in the arm by a gunman carrying a box of ammunition in his backpack trying to gain access to the building. Law enforcement hailed Leo a hero for his role in tackling and disarming the shooter, and reports today suggest Leo is recovering well from surgery. (Full disclosure: I worked at FRC between 1994 and 2002, and Leo’s warm greeting has always been a highlight of return visits.)
Leaders across the political spectrum have condemned the violent act, from conservative allies of FRC to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to President Obama, the Human Rights Campaign, two dozen other LGBT organizations, and the DC Center for the LGBT Community where the shooter reportedly volunteered. The near-universal condemnation (the exceptions seem to fester in the backwaters of the Twittersphere) is a very welcome sign.
In eschewing such violence, we fortify our resolve to live peacefully with our deepest differences and to pursue consensus about societal norms through politics. Broadly speaking, politics isn’t just the electoral mechanics we typically think of. It’s how we conduct our life together as a people. It relies on debate, persuasion, negotiation…and tolerance. It demands that we communicate, especially when it comes to differences about deeply held beliefs, about the merits of our ideas.