I had a mild panic attack last night. When I told Boy that it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest, he asked me, “Well, is it a cute elephant?” At least that got me to laugh. We were sitting in bed, reading. I’m in the middle of Unrelenting, the new autobiography from George H. Morris, the godfather of our sport. I’ve taken a few clinics from him, and despite his infamous vitriol, the amount I learned in just a few days was incredible. To read his story, and square the man who regularly says “You’re a soup sandwich, sit up and ride” and “If you’re not going to get back up on that horse, you’d better be going to the emergency room” with his wickedly funny stories, and lively impulsivity has kept me giggling, and scratching my head, through the book.
Around midnight, I put the book down, declaring that I was finally tired and could quiet my brain enough to sleep (lol). Then, I promptly picked up my phone. I scrolled through my Instagram feed, but then I switched to Facebook around the time that Boy turned out the light and sighed in exasperation. “Ok, ok,” I said, fully intending to put the phone down. That’s when I gasped.
It’s the same eye-popping, immediate inhalation, jaw-hitting-the-floor frozen expression that I hope you had when you read the title of this post, probably while scrolling through your own Facebook feed.
“I hope someone shoots her already” was the conclusion of a friend after posting some meme about FBI Director James Comey’s declaration that while “extremely careless,” Clinton’s use of a private server wasn’t criminal.
So let’s talk frankly about this email server issue here.
A friend (an actual friend, IRL, whose conservative opinion I trust and value) told me a couple months ago that regardless of when something is classified, someone handling that information in the position of Secretary Clinton should know better than to send it over an ill-advised private server. I argued the point, because that’s what I do. Hearing Comey talk about his agency’s findings, I owe that friend a “You were right, I was wrong” text.
I cannot tell you how many times I hear people lament that they just want a politician to admit it when they’ve screwed up. Hillary has. She has acknowledged on multiple occasions that she would do things differently if she could go back and make those decisions again. She’s human, like the rest of us. Obviously, a mea culpa isn’t what we want from our leaders, despite our insistence.
To the charge that she didn’t admit she had sent potentially classified information? Uh, obviously. “NBD, y’all, I low key may have sent some things I shouldn’t have, but don’t let that influence your investigation of my server.” These were things, however, shared with people who had security clearance, who supported the former Secretary in her mission to engage the world diplomatically in the interests of the United States.
Let’s contrast this for a hot second with the David Petraeus issue. That is someone who, to use Director Comey’s own words, “You had vast quantities of highly classified information … not only shared with someone without authority to have it, but we found it in a search warrant, hidden [in his desk], and then he lied to us about it during the investigation. So you have obstruction of justice. You have intentional misconduct. And a vast quantity of classified information.”
Granted, Petraeus isn’t seeking higher office, but he was only prosecuted for a misdemeanor, served no prison time, and wasn’t demoted for his actions (which is more incredible because adultery is definitely against Army code). So it’s not surprising that the FBI wouldn’t seek criminal charges against Clinton; what experts have said all along is that the FBI and DOJ would have to have an airtight case of intentional, criminal wrongdoing to bring suit against Clinton in any year, let alone an election year starring her. If the FBI didn’t bring the felony charges against Petraeus that he prosecutor was confident he could win, obviously it wasn’t going to happen in this instance where Clinton has cooperated fully with the investigation.
With that understanding of what is needed to bring a case against a high-profile person, let’s turn the microscope on us, the hoi polloi, who demand that everyone be treated the same under the law. This reaction, the I hope someone shoots her already is the logical extension of the political rhetoric that we’ve been cultivating: increasingly contentious, ever divided. It’s what gave us Donald Trump, the candidate. And it’s what has given us, now, the result that if someone doesn’t like a candidate, the only way to get rid of them is assassination.
This attitude isn’t just the fringes anymore. It’s radiated out to people that, until recently, I thought more reasonable. We share the memes of what Trump’s America will look like, and for some of us, we are genuinely terrified. The way Trump outlaws any journalist or news service who paints him in a bad light; the way he calls our media, which for better or worse is the fourth estate of our democracy, “sleazy” or “the worst people he’s ever met” for insisting on follow ups to his claims; these are terrifying harbingers.
To say that we wish someone would shoot the people running to represent us, or who do represent us (because the fringe indeed called for Obama’s assassination, too) is not what we should be expressing in our democracy. If you hate Hillary Clinton, fine. Don’t vote for her. But your wish that someone shoot her to, quite simply, get her out of the running to lead this country, does not supersede a majority who may wish her to be president, mistakes, flaws, and all.
We’re no longer on a slippery slope. The logical end of the hateful rhetoric has arrived, manifesting in people who are casual observers of the news, because they have lives moving this country along; not conspiracy theorists, not anyone planning a campaign strategy, not fringe activists. What brought us Candidate Trump has now manifested in the kind of sentiment calling for assassination, wholly felt by large swaths of the conservative movement.
What reading Unrelenting highlighted for me is the complexity of our equestrian icon, someone we all feel we know, because GHM is larger than life. However, much like the rest of us, he is complicated, and multidimensional and he makes sure we know it in this book. I feel like the parallels between seeing GHM as a full human, and a lot of voters’ refusal to see Hillary as such are stark today.
Hillary screwed up. If you feel that disqualifies her from being president, simply don’t vote for her. Or you can volunteer for Trump, whenever he decides to run a campaign and not a media blitz. But you don’t get to call for the assassination of a woman who I, and many, many others, feel is whole enough to lead this country.
Note, the person who posted the inflammatory comment has since deleted it.