I have a bad feeling that we’ll be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing in the near future, on both sides of the Atlantic:
LONDON — A member of Parliament was gunned down outside a library in northern England as she was wrapping up a meeting with constituents on Thursday afternoon, a rare act of political violence in a nation that strictly regulates firearms.
The lawmaker, Jo Cox, 41, who was considered a rising star in the opposition Labour Party and was a passionate advocate for victims of the civil war in Syria, was shot in Birstall, a town about six miles southwest of the city of Leeds. A 77-year-old man was slightly injured in the attack.
A 52-year-old man was arrested in Ms. Cox’s killing, and the police said they were not looking for any other suspects. No motive has been established, officials said.
Gun ownership in Britain has been tightly controlled since a 1996 massacre at a school in Scotland, and historians said it was the first time a sitting member of Parliament had been killed since 1990, when the Irish Republican Army assassinated a Conservative lawmaker, Ian Gow.
The killing occurred one week before a referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union, and both sides immediately halted campaigning out of respect for Ms. Cox.
“The death of Jo Cox is a tragedy,” Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain wrote on Twitter, describing Ms. Cox as “a committed and caring M.P.” and “a great star.” He said, “It’s right that we’re suspending campaigning activity in this referendum.”
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party, wrote on Twitter: “The whole of the Labour family, and indeed the whole country, is in shock and grief at the horrific murder of Jo Cox.”
Ms. Cox, like most other Labour politicians, supported Britain’s continued membership in the European Union. In her maiden speech in Parliament last year, she spoke of the diversity of her district, which includes Irish Catholics and Indian Muslims. “We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us,” she said.
So, no, Nigel Farage isn’t responsible for Jo Cox’s murder. And nor is the Leave campaign. But they are responsible for the manner in which they have pressed their argument. They weren’t to know something like this was going to happen, of course, and they will be just as shocked and horrified by it as anyone else.
But, still. Look. When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. You cannot turn around and say, ‘Mate, you weren’t supposed to take it so seriously. It’s just a game, just a ploy, a strategy for winning votes.’
When you shout BREAKING POINT over and over again, you don’t get to be surprised when someone breaks. When you present politics as a matter of life and death, as a question of national survival, don’t be surprised if someone takes you at your word. You didn’t make them do it, no, but you didn’t do much to stop it either.
Sometimes rhetoric has consequences. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen.
We can’t control the weather but, in politics, we can control the climate in which the weather happens. That’s on us, all of us, whatever side of any given argument we happen to be. Today, it feels like we’ve done something terrible to that climate.
Sad doesn’t begin to cover it. This is worse, much worse, than just sad. This is a day of infamy, a day in which we should all feel angry and ashamed. Because if you don’t feel a little ashamed – if you don’t feel sick, right now, wherever you are reading this – then something’s gone wrong with you somewhere.