Leonard Pitts: Is human compassion so hard for them?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 8, 2021

By Leonard Pitts

Gunther Hashida killed himself last week.

We don’t know why. At this writing, we don’t even know how.

What we do know is that Hashida, an 18-year veteran of the D.C. police force, is the fourth cop to die by his own hand after responding to the Jan. 6 insurrection by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol. What we do know, having heard testimony from four of Hashida’s colleagues last week before a House select committee, is that the cost of defending the Capitol was high, both in physical terms — bones broken, eyes gouged, skin split — and in emotional ones.

Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn and Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, along with D.C. Police Officer Michael Fanone, all used the same word to describe the emotional toll of that day: trauma.

Which brings us to another thing we know. Which is that none of the suffering these men endured seems to have made the slightest impression upon most so-called conservatives, or caused them to waver in their core mission to preserve, protect and defend Donald Trump. And there is no lie they won’t tell, no principle they won’t betray, no line they won’t cross, to do so.

Indeed, Tucker Carlson of Fox “News” actually snickered while mocking the officers’ emotional distress. His colleague, Laura Ingraham, accused them of “third-rate theatrics.” And a quartet of congresspersons — Gaetz, Gosar, Gohmert and Greene — sought to distract from the hearing with a simultaneous press conference about “political prisoners,” i.e., jailed rioters. They were driven off by protesters.

All this was about two days before Hashida was found dead. And while correlation is not causation, it does make you wonder. In defending the Capitol, he and his fellow cops joined a great continuum of those who took personal risks to make and preserve America. They ventured — and often lost — blood, bone, sanity and lives for the sake of ideals that they felt justified the sacrifice.

By contrast, the only thing so-called conservatives are asked to risk is political position and the ire of Donald Trump. It seems a comparatively small price to pay in service to America. Which makes it all the more pathetic that most of them can’t.

It’s telling that people who were so fulsome in their outrage when a Target store was burned after the police murder of George Floyd, who were so righteous in their fury when Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police violence against African Americans, can muster so little empathy for cops who defended the Capitol — our Capitol — against the worst attack in over 200 years.

Is human compassion so hard for them? Is simple decency so foreign? Is courage such a stranger?

Apparently so. Many of us have lionized Republican Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney for crossing party and ideological lines to support these cops — and that’s a sad statement. What they’re doing should not be heroic. What they’re doing — putting the country first — should be the norm.

Certainly, this is what police did on Jan. 6. Now, again, one of them has taken his own life.

If you — police officer or not — are pondering that recourse, consider this a plea on behalf of those who love you, to get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.

As to Gunther Hashida, again, we don’t know much. But here’s one more thing we do know: He was willing to sacrifice for this country and, now, so-called conservatives mock that valor. This cop deserved better.

They all did.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Miami, Fla., 33172. Email him at lpitts@miamiherald.com.