So this is what American politics has come to.

Just hours after the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia’s Ninth District, sent out this tweet:

"RIP to the more than 30 million innocent babies that have been murdered during the decades that Ruth Bader Ginsburg defended pro-abortion laws.”

Rep. Collins was implicitly saying, "I'm glad RBG is dead because I disagreed with her about abortion."

Although Collins later denied he was celebrating Justice Ginsburg's death so that Republicans can appoint an anti-abortion justice to the court, that's exactly what he was doing.

In an interview with an Atlanta television news station, Collins defended his tweet, saying, "There’s just polite, and there’s just the truth. That was the truth."

No, it was disgraceful. 

It doesn't matter whether or not you agreed with Ginsburg politically. She led a remarkable life that saw a huge transition in gender roles during the 20th century. To high-five her death — as Collins clearly did with his tweet — showed a lack of character and morality on his part.

What the hell has happened to the Doug Collins that we all used to know?

•••

I realize that Collins is running for the Senate and that his Ginsburg tweet was an effort to gin up the anti-abortion vote to his favor. He's among a dozen or so candidates challenging incumbent Kelly Loeffler for the Senate seat in a strange free-for-all contest. He wants to get his name out across the state and to rally as much conservative support as possible.

But where is the line between decency and debasement if not in the shadow of someone's death? 

If this were an isolated incident, I wouldn't think too much about it. But it's becoming a pattern with Collins and others in the political sphere who have adopted a rhetorical scorched-earth policy of political engagement. Political disagreements are now discussed as personal insults. There is no honor left in the system, only bomb-throwing. Anything goes, no matter how smarmy.

How can any politician or political party expect to unite a nation if they openly cheer the death of a Supreme Court justice?

•••

One recent Sunday morning, my wife and I tuned into a local church's service via Facebook. We expected to hear a conservative sermon — the minister is conservative — but were shocked to see just how ugly church rhetoric has become in 2020.

In addition to several other questionable political statements, this minister compared the U.S. Supreme Court to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. As with Collins, his statement revolved around the minister's opposition to abortion.

It's one thing to feel passionately about an issue, but comparing the Supreme Court to Nazism is not just wrong factually, it's an ugly smear coming from the mouth of a man who professes to teach that God is the ultimate love.

The minister's political stand was pretty clear, too. I wasn't aware that God had a political party litmus test and that if you don't vote the right color ballot, you won't get a pass inside the Pearly Gates.

I must have missed that Sunday School lesson.

The truth is, politics has become a cancer on the soul of many religious institutions.

Some ministers have given up on preaching love, character and compassion and embraced the rhetoric of politics as their weapon. Instead of seeking to change hearts and minds, some preachers have turned to the power of the state as a bludgeon to control behavior they disagree with. 

I guess their God isn't powerful enough, so they have turned to politicians instead.

The result of all of that is the acceptance of ugly rhetoric as the norm, even inside a church sanctuary.

Maybe Rep. Collins — who is a part-time military chaplain — also thinks of Supreme Court justices as nothing more than modern day Nazis and their deaths should be celebrated rather than lamented.

Ugly stuff.

•••

What's especially galling about Collins' tweet was the obvious hypocrisy that surrounds it.

Back when the Senate was tearing itself apart during the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Collins was livid at Democrats who dared to question that nomination.

Said Collins: "When are we going to move on from the smear campaigns, and begin working on real, bipartisan solutions to improve the lives of the Americans we were elected to represent?”

Yes, Rep. Collins, when are we going to move on from the smearing of individuals, dead or alive?

•••

One might blame President Trump for this increased debasing of American political rhetoric. The president has clearly lowered the standards of political conduct with his vicious tweets and public comments about those who dare to disagree with him. America has never had a president as mendacious as Donald Trump.

But blaming Trump for what Collins said is too easy.  Trump didn't put words into his mouth. Collins is an adult and is responsible for what he says and does.

Trump may have lowered the bar, but Collins made the choice to lower himself. In doing so, he has debased both himself and his office.

I realize that a lot of people in the Ninth District will disagree with that. It is largely an anti-abortion district and for many, the means justify the ends. There are probably a lot of people in the district who have, like Collins, celebrated the death of Justice Ginsburg.

The point here isn't pro- or anti-abortion. Reasonable people can disagree on such issues.

But we debase the foundations of democracy when we applaud the death of those who have different views than we do.

Are we to judge everyone's life just based on their political views? Should we now start putting an R or a D on tombstones as a summary of our lives?

•••

I am disheartened by all of this.

Doug Collins is a decent man whose time on the political stage has changed him. He has become what he once opposed, a politician willing to do or say anything to fulfill political advancement. He has let ambition eat away at his heart and corrode his soul.

Rep. Collins says he wants to save babies from abortion and that there is sanctity in all human life.

But it's difficult to convince me he really cares about life while he's doing a war dance on the grave of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Mike Buffington is co-publisher of Mainstreet Newspapers and editor of The Jackson Herald. He can be reached at mike@mainstreetnews.com.

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