Today, at a meeting with young black conservatives, President Trump said in relation to 14 fake pipe bombs mailed to politicians and CNN, “These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country. No place. We must never allow political violence to take root in America.”
Others are also all over the media saying, “This is not who we are as a country.”
It’s a very nice sentiment but it’s totally false. Political violence is very much a part of who we are as a country.
That’s a fact.
The United States did not just spring up out of the ground. It was political violence done against Protestant sects in England that drove the Pilgrims to leave and come to the New World. Pennsylvania is called the “Quaker State” because William Penn invited a persecuted Quaker minority to escape political violence in Germany and come to the Colonies. The United States itself was born in a decade-long armed rebellion against the King of England. We barely freed ourselves of English rule before a farmhand in Massachusetts led his own rebellion of some 4,000 men against the state government over civil rights abuses and economic injustice. Shay’s Rebellion undermined faith in the Articles of Confederation and led to a Constitution being written and adopted.
Every war we have ever fought can be rightly called “political violence.” The US Civil War, which killed upwards of 600,000 Americans, maimed a million more, and saw entire cities burned to the ground, was nothing but pure political violence on an industrial scale.
A cursory search finds no less than 60 political murders; presidents, presidential candidates, senators, congressmen, governors, state legislators, mayors, sheriffs and judges. The list of failed attempts is much longer. President Andrew Jackson half beat a man to death with his cane on the steps of the Capitol when his assassin’s pistols both misfired. Within hours the press had implicated every prominent politician in the Whig Party as being part of a plot against Jackson. The assassin himself appeared to have been a loon, thinking himself King Richard III and entitled to payment in arrears from the Colonies. This was in 1835, does the scenario of the media blaming the supporters of the opposition party for the actions of a kook sound at all familiar today?
Journalist Bryan Burroughs, in his book Days of Rage, states that in an 18 month period of 1970-71, there were 2,500 bombings. Almost none of them solved. The targets included post offices, universities, recruiting stations, campaign HQs, the Pentagon, and even Congress. Revolutionary Marxist groups robbed banks, kidnapped people for ransom, and killed police officers. All of it intended to bring the government crashing down and reconstitute it along Marxist/Communist doctrines.
It didn’t succeed. (I hope that isn’t a surprise to anyone reading this.)
These groups all wanted to build a new society of egalitarianism and social justice and called the oppressed and minorities to join them, and were utterly astonished when they didn’t rise up in revolution. Probably because the oppressed and minorities didn’t think the society they lived in was all that bad. The United States is pretty resilient against political violence and calls for replacing the entire government and society with something else. We have a system where social grievances can be legally redressed, slowly at times, imperfectly, but still, they get redressed.
We have a Constitutional Republic with strong protections of basic rights, and elections are not permanent grants of power. Any errors the voters make in electing someone to office gets corrected by the voters in 2, 4 or 6 years without fail. So everybody can relax, what we are going through right now is nothing compared to the political violence of the past and our country and society are still here, all in one piece.
But pretending that political violence isn’t part of “who we are” in this country just isn’t true.