As the nation's capital copes with the tragic aftermath of yesterday's Navy Yard shootings, Washington Mayor Vincent Gray (D) has gone on camera to name the sequester as a possible factor behind the tragedy. "It's hard to know [what could have prevented it]," Gray said to CNN. "But certainly, as I look at for example sequestration, which is about saving money in the federal government … that we somehow skimped on what would be available for projects like this, and then we put people at risk."
While the sequester is not a good policy by any measure, Gray's politicization of the Navy Yard shootings, and so early on, is alarming. It is one thing to say that sequestration cuts have driven down science grants by 14% or that Air Force bases have had to slash their flying budgets. But attempting to place Aaron Alexis' shooting rampage under this umbrella misplaces the context entirely and the mayor comes off as distasteful.
Watch the clip below:
Despite reportedly being described as a nice person who "never got mad at anybody," Alexis was a mentally-ill individual who suffered blackouts fueled by rage, according to one police report. As the investigation begins and the mystery behind the shooter and his motivations continues to unfold, playing the blame game is worse than irresponsible; it's divisive in a time when society least needs or wants it.
The politicization of tragedies is a plight on our nation's politics, and is endemic to an increasingly divided nation. This was especially true in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, when the NRA preemptively released an aggressive ad campaign attacking President Obama in anticipation of proposals to reduce gun violence. And it looks like that division is only going to grow wider, as Gray points to the sequester.
The presence of politics in times of tragedies has escalated to the point where victims and their families are now superseded and drowned out by lobbyists and politicians, as they co-opt these devastating events to their own agendas.
But let us not forget that real people have died. Divisive politics should not play such a direct role in times of adversity.