J. Denton Adams is a radical moderate, former North Carolina General Assembly journalist, attorney, and occasional activist.

By: J. Denton Adams

Today’s shooting in northern Virginia, in which House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), members of his security detail, a congressional staffer, and a lobbyist were wounded, is a tragedy. Any sane American should decry it. Anyone who has any inkling that this should be celebrated should immediately seek mental help. I am not kidding, and I don’t care which party you belong to.

The courts still work. We still get to hold fair elections. The executive branch still has to account for its actions. There are good arguments that these systems are flawed, but they certainly still work. When the rule of law starts meaning nothing is when you reasonably start talking about rebellion, and we’re a damn far cry from that. This morning, an angry and likely insane man appears to have decided to attack innocent people whose sole offense was pursuing a different ideology than his. U.S. Rep. Scalise deserved no more to be shot than former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Our democracy relies on the marketplace of ideas. If you want somewhere in which silencing political enemies is par for the course, I suggest you go visit a place like Russia. We don’t work that way, nor should we.

However, we have somehow become a nation in which vitriol and raw adversarial politics have become the norm. We should not hate the other side in political battles, but many do. Chants of “lock her up,” images of dead presidents, paranoid unchecked public rants on cable TV and a myriad of other offenses have created an atmosphere in which someone just a few crayons short of a box might think it’s time to start shooting the other side. Democrats and Republicans cannot plead innocent here.

Let the wounded rest some before you start using this tragedy for the game—that is the decent thing to do. I’m sure plenty have already twisted this tragedy to political ends, and that will only contribute to the larger problem. Civil decency must return to the political world or we risk this kind of madness becoming more common.