UIndy professor says Va. shooting part of climate of political polarization

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The FBI has not released details of the motive behind Wednesday’s shooting at Virginia baseball field, but the dean of the college of applied behavioral health sciences at the University of Indianapolis says it points to large issues – mental health and a growing trend in this country towards political polarization.

Now more than ever – Anita Thomas says – people are retreating to their prospective ideological corners both in social settings and online.

Thomas says Wednesday’s shooting which involved a gunman opening fire on a group of Congressional Republicans practicing for a charity baseball game, points to an extreme example of the polarization.

“I think we can certainly come to a couple of conclusions. I think that as a nation we’ve become way more polarized politically than we have in the past,” Thomas said. “One of the byproducts that we are starting to see more research on is that people are starting to experience higher stress levels than they had in the past. So one of the things we are seeing is that when people are taking sides on their values, their beliefs, their desires for change in the country that we are becoming more and more polarized.

“So what you are seeing is people becoming more extreme in their positions,” Thomas said.

The suspected gunman, James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill. was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire with Capitol Police, Alexandria Police and other local agencies, the FBI reported.

Among those injured in the shooting were House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a Congressional staffer, a lobbyist, a Capitol Police officer and the gunman. Two others sustained “secondary injuries” the FBI said.

Hodgkinson’s Facebook posts included some anti-GOP sentiments including a recent post from this spring that mentioned the need to “destroy Trump and company.”

The FBI says the gunman may have been in the Alexandria, Va. area since March living out of his car. Anyone with interactions with him is urged to call authorities.

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