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Apparently, it can get worse

January 25, 2019

Have you ever wanted to write…something…about, well…something, only to find, at the last moment, that someone else has not only already written it, but arguably written what you would have liked to have written, the way you would have liked to have written it – only better? Yeah. It’s worse when someone else does it with two things you wanted to write about. And manages to do it with a single article or blog posting.

I have been struggling to find the words to express what I think about both the tempest in a teapot that is the kerfuffle over the Covington students and one Nathan Phillips, and the greater issue of American society and what seems to be an increasing intolerance for those who might disagree with someone else. *Expressive sigh* Today, I came across this blog post from Mike Williamson. By way of warning, if you are fainthearted or a member of The Perpetually Offended, it is likely not for you (yes, I put the warning after the link because, you know, this is my blog and you are presumably sufficiently an adult to read a bit further and – never mind).

I don’t want to go into any lengthy discussion of Nathan Phillips. Both Mike Williamson’s posting and this video by former Navy Seal Don Shipley do that far more than adequately. Heck, you can even watch the video here.


On the other hand, I do want to give a little time to one aspect of the issue of a seeming increasing intolerance for those who disagree with others.

During the years Barack Obama was in the Oval Office, I became convinced that political discourse in the US had reached its ultimate low. I had “friends” on social media platforms I eventually wound up “unfollowing” because their rhetoric was vile. As much as I disagreed with many of Barack Obama’s policies and ideas (which is to say, a lot), as much harm as I think those policies did, he did not commit treason (nor, I submit, anything even close to meeting the constitutional definition of treason), nor did he deliberately and knowingly attempt to destroy the US, nor was there justification for suggesting, as some did, that he should be shot or hanged. Surely, I thought, it can’t get any worse than this.

I was wrong.

I don’t think much of Donald Trump. I didn’t vote for him and would have strongly preferred someone else as President (except for the one I have seen described as “Dick Cheney in a pantsuit” – I wish I could take credit for that). He is, I believe, as much of an authoritarian as most other politicians. I suspect he, like most other national politicians, finds the Constitution and its provisions to be an unwelcome impediment to what he might like to do (the way the document and its provisions serve as an impediment are, by the way, are a feature rather than a bug). Still…

It is not okay to call for his assassination. It is a vile, disgusting and unethical thing to do. It will also likely get you a well-deserved visit from the Secret Service. It minimizes the pain and suffering of people with dementia to toss out accusations of it. Unless you have information you haven’t shared with Mueller, it has not been proven that Donald Trump is Putin’s pawn. There is no evidence that he plans to precipitate a civil war, “start World War III,” or to “have his supporters keep him in office longer than the Constitution allows.” The election of Donald Trump is not reason to call for the elimination of, among other things, the Electoral College, the US Senate, the US Supreme Court, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, and US states. There is no indication I have seen that Russia funneled tens of millions of dollars into the US through the NRA or that Donald Trump is in violation of the emoluments clause. Insisting there is such evidence while jumping up and down and holding your breath until your face turns blue does not a compelling argument make. If you are a person who makes his/her living with words, you have no excuse, unless you spent a lot of time living out on a limb with Shirley, for claiming that “Donald Trump is literally Hitler.”

But, there is more.

As a person who grew up in a particular Christian tradition, I have seen the view of some rabid legalists mirrored in the modern American Left. In the church, it often takes the form of “if you don’t actively oppose x, or if you have anything that approaches regard for people who do x, you support it.” It is specious nonsense in the church and it is equally specious nonsense in politics. In modern American political and social discourse, that same reasoning can be found on the Left. “If you don’t actively oppose everything Donald Trump says and does, or if you think he has done anything at all positive, or if you, God forbid, held your nose and voted for him, you support any and every vile, evil thing of which he and his supporters are accused.” There is a reason a man I know has referred to the modern American Left (especially progressives) as “the new Moral Majority.”

And, of course, there is more.

Advocating violence because you disagree with others is a bad idea. At least, if you’re going to do that, have the nerve to do your own dirty work. Don’t call for others to dox a bunch of kids and leave them open to attack. Don’t encourage others to do what you, quite frankly, don’t have the balls to do. And, don’t make the mistake of thinking that if you do engage in your own act of violence, society will choose to say it’s okay because of the purity of your motives or that your victim won’t fight back. What is most likely to happen is that society will rely upon the rule of law to slap you down harder than you can imagine and certainly harder than what you will likely think is fair – and not care that you feel mistreated.

Which leads us to a problem greater than “simple” political violence. What happens if your victim chooses to fight back? Well, you could get hurt. You could get hurt as badly as your victim, or worse. You could even get dead (“I carry a gun because I’m too young to die and too old to take an ass beating”). It becomes, at some point, a matter of scale. What happens if you and your comrades (deliberate word choice) of equally pure motives all encounter enthusiastic and effective resistance? Do you work harder to make your point? How far do you go? How many more do you enlist in your quest?* More than that, what happens not simply to the particulars in a given fight, but to the nation as a whole if this thing spreads? LawDog had some thoughts on this, almost two years ago.

Of course, my concerns could be misplaced. All this could settle down and everything be fine. And it will be, if people are willing to step away, just a bit, from the edge.

*Just in case you are confused or inclined toward thinking I believe politically motivated violence (real violence, not pseudo-intellectual “violent words” or “microagression) is okay from the other side of the spectrum, allow me to disabuse you of that notion. I do not think it’s okay. From my perspective today, January 25, 2019, the biggest threat comes from the Left rather than the Right. That could change tomorrow, in which case I’ll be glad to call them out, too.

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