Yesterday, our nation’s capital experienced a wake-up call. A lone gunman targeted a baseball practice where Republican representatives were playing. His motivation? Rage, frustration, and political prejudice. His actions are condemned by members of Congress, but I have one question to ask them…
When leaders model the wrong behavior, what doors do they open to their followers?
Leaders have a responsibility to their constituents. They are in a position to influence others with their words and actions. If they choose a course that is offensive, mouthy, and verging on violence, their followers assume that they can also do the same. Unfortunately, not everyone has self-control or knows where the boundaries are. Leader’s actions raise and lower the bar for what is the acceptable and the appropriate response.
I believe much of the violence we have witnessed in the last few months is stirred by the rhetoric and reactivity of Democratic leaders in Congress. (I would also add the media and Hollywood stars to the list!) After the election, instead of accepting defeat graciously, they chose to extend the battle with vitriolic attacks on the new president.
“He is not my president!” many stated. Even at the inauguration, many refused to attend in protest. When leaders model the wrong behavior, it opens the door for others to imitate and even surpass their efforts. Although they did not call for violence, did they turn a blind eye to it?
And now it is on their doorstep.
Please, do not misunderstand me. This is not a political poke at the Democrats. It could have easily been reversed with the Republicans pointing the finger and on the attack.
Leadership has a responsibility to those who look to them as an example. Think about how your parents raised you. If mom and dad said it was OK, you felt a freedom to experiment. If they drank alcohol, so did you. Whatever their normal was, you probably echoed or surpassed their actions.
Men and women in the US spotlight have chosen to react in immature and hateful ways. Their words and anger spark others who cannot or will not respect the boundaries of human decency. The result is a bloody head of the President, calls for assassination, destructive rioting, and now a shooting of Congressmen.
As the verbiage and demonstrations have escalated since the election, where were the leaders to diffuse the violence? Instead of lessening the impact of a few radicals, they fueled the fire with their own rhetoric and plans. When leaders model the wrong behavior, they open doors to the horrific.
Wednesday was a wake-up call for Washington.
When will it end? When leaders realize that they are the doorkeepers.