Shooting political opponents appears one way to possibly silence them. Many people are shocked by last week’s events at a charity baseball practice. A gunman described as “crazed” and “psychotic” by TV pundits targeted Republican congressmen he didn’t like. His actions aren’t unique. There is a long history not only in the United States of political change by violence but throughout the world. In the first hours following the Alexandria shooting I heard interviews with two U.S. senators who had been there. While the process varies state by state had they been killed potentially their immediate replacements could be Democrats. Depending on the volume of dead senators there could be at least a temporary change in the balance of power on Capitol Hill. When I mentioned on social media James Hodgkinson may have been quite sane I took some flack. Two days later we learned he carried a list of names he planned to target.
As the reality of what occurred wore away, there was some agreement between right and left. Many on the left began to say heated rhetoric didn’t motivate the shooter. Many on the right have been saying this for years but generally the left through its media allies works to pin violence on words spoken or written by Republicans. “Words have meanings,” is a favorite defense of academics, snowflakes and Democrats across the country. Until one of their own misbehaves. Which lately has been quite common. Ask the Dallas Police, speakers at Berkeley and Middlebury and recently Trump supporters attempting to rally in Portland.
A radio audience I gather with weekdays heard me say last week I’ve never known a world without political violence. I was born late in 1962 and the following year there were two major political assassinations in America, the president of the United States included. Before my 10th birthday there were major political figures killed in 1965 and 1968, and in 1972 one was badly wounded. During the same era, campuses and cities burned. Terrorists bombed the Pentagon, the University of Wisconsin and sometimes, through incompetence, themselves. There was violence in the 1980s. Recently a member of a violent terrorist organization was honored by liberals with a parade in New York City. The 1990s brought us violence by government and those opposed to government. The new century opened with a fit of jihadist rage, and it hasn’t subsided.
Violence has often worked as a means of change. “With malice toward none” came to a screeching halt with Lincoln’s killing. The nitwits who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand believed they would highlight a cause for independence. Instead they struck the fuse for a kind of war of which nobody could previously fathom. The fools had also killed the one man in Europe who could grant their wish and he had sympathy for their cause. A college roommate was second generation Serb. Let’s just say he enjoyed the brawling first and then asked questions later.
Now I’m really going to annoy the tea-sipping crowd. I think it likely any vibrant culture is more violent than peaceful. Most readers (and I realize the Europhiles object) would agree the American Revolution was a good thing. It continued a trend in human evolution where monarchies are replaced by rule of law and representative government, a broadening of the political base. This evolution rolls along and sometimes impatient people act out and commit really, really awful deeds.
While the United States isn’t unique when it comes to political violence, what is much more unique about Western countries is how well violence is survived. Government continued Wednesday, although with a brief and expected slowdown in the House. In many places following the shooting the tanks roll into the streets and the broadcast operations are seized. We haven’t seen anything along those lines in two-and-a-half centuries. When the South was in revolt, the goal wasn’t conquering the North. The Confederate States wanted to be left alone. Most of these violent outbursts are failures. Simply because the morons with guns, bombs or matches live in echo chambers. They believe the public is itching to rise up and join them. For all the leftist whining about Donald Trump, he wasn’t placed on a throne by a junta. He won an election. For all the bellyaching about Russia, Mr. Putin wasn’t waiting at the ballot box and twisting arms. “Nyet, nyet, nyet!” he would’ve shouted as you attempted to cast a vote for Clinton. Then he would’ve wrestled you down until you said “uncle.” Or maybe “Uncle Vanya” in his case.
What perhaps was most alarming about last week’s shooting was the online gloating by some liberals, some of whom otherwise lead normal lives. I’m not claiming any moral high ground. Tomorrow if Nancy Pelosi bought the farm while crossing a street in the path of a surplus half-track there would be conservatives who would suggest a medal for the driver. Again, most of this is harmless rhetoric. Words don’t kill. People and some animals do. Guns don’t kill. No gun has ever read this newspaper column, climbed out of a safe and gone on a shooting spree all on its own. The only violence ever threatened by anyone reading or listening to my words was promised against me and not for my cause. If that’s what furrows their brows then they need to get lives. James Hodgkinson didn’t have much of a life. He was an angry walking human pustule.