American politics has become so volatile that there is danger of violent confrontations between rival factions, and I think it’s time to step back and take a look down the road before we find we’ve gone too far.
Violence in American politics is not new. Remember the protests against the Vietnam War? The flag burning and the bombings? The Weather Underground? Students for a Democratic Society? Kent State?
Do we really want to go there again?
Think of the after shocks. Think of the rise of the right wing, the organized propaganda campaign funded by billionaires, the mass rejection of “liberal” thinking.
America is only now recovering from the revulsion evoked by the excesses of some Vietnam protesters. And I don’t think the violence did any good. I think it was the peaceful protests that turned the tide and ended the war.
The authorities lost their case when they responded to peaceful marchers with jackboot-style brutality and gunned down students at Kent State.
Muhammad Ali did infinitely more for the anti-war movement by refusing to be drafted – even facing a prison sentence and suspension from boxing – than those misguided kids who planted bombs at public buildings.
In the same way, America’s civil rights victories were won not with bombs – or even fists and clubs – but with civil disobedience.
As Martin Luther King observed:
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
By smashing the skulls of peaceful protesters like John Lewis, the authoritarian bullies lost the public’s support.
I think we should keep the lessons of history in mind as this flammable campaign season progresses. There will be many occasions that could spark violent confrontations as Trump supporters pursue their provocative path.
It would be a grave mistake for enlightened Americans to meet violence with violence. That is exactly what the fascist provocateurs are hoping for.