Food for Thought
I hope that we are not headed toward something like another American Civil War.
Current events are beginning to remind me of the Brooks-Sumner Affair of 1856, in which South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks beat Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner nearly to death on the floor of the U.S. Senate with a gold-headed cane. Brooks was hailed as a hero throughout the south and denounced as an animal throughout the north. It seemed that no northerner saw Preston Brooks as anything but a beast, and that no southerner saw Charles Sumner as anything but a cur in need of a good beating.
I fear we may be approaching a similar atmosphere today. In fact, I, myself, have probably contributed to it. It has been pointed out to me, for instance, that I ought to be more respectful of Donald Trump, and whether or not this is actually true, I’m certain that I have allowed myself to become too bitter.
In any case, the modern march toward bitterness has been going on for awhile.
In 2000, for instance, my parents and I took a trip to New York City, and were given a guided tour by one of the natives—a nice lady who volunteered (without our inquiring about her politics) that President George W. Bush was not HER president.
A little over eight years later, I read an article written by the head of the Missouri Cattleman’s Association, referring to President Obama as ‘King Obama’. The implication was obvious. President Obama was not the president, but a tyrant who had seized power against ‘the will of the people’.
Around eight years after that, liberal rabble-rouser, Michael Moore, entered Trump Tower on the Saturday after the 2016 election carrying a letter to Trump that read: ‘You lost. Step aside.’ And I assume that he would not have delivered that same letter to Hillary Clinton had SHE lost the popular vote by 3 million but won the Electoral College.
Now, over two years later, those who investigate Russia’s (very real) interference in the 2016 election are branded ‘traitors’ by Trump’s supporters. Yet what I find most alarming is our current failure to even see one another as human.
For instance, at a Trump rally in the Florida panhandle, Trump posed the question, ‘How are we supposed to stop the people who are coming to the border?’ at which point, someone in the crowd shouted, “Shoot ‘em!”
This attitude terrifies me, and should terrify us all. Remember—whole families tend to be coming to the border, now. The so-called ‘caravans’ include pregnant women, babies and toddlers. And of course, there is a legitimate debate to be had concerning just who should be let into the U.S. Yet the fact that some person would scream, “Shoot em!” ought to be horrifying, and implies that the person who called out the ‘suggestion’ regards all people from south of the border as being little better than cattle.
Again, I am reminded of the southern congressmen who treasured (as mementoes) pieces of the cane that Preston Brooks shattered against Charles Sumner’s skull.
The frightening thing about such an atmosphere is that what usually matters can cease to matter. Liberals call the Electoral College ‘illegitimate’ simply because they don’t like the most recent electoral outcome. Conservatives have begun to threaten not to accept the outcomes of elections if their side loses.
Will Republicans riot in the streets if Trump loses in 2020? Will Democrats riot if they lose? Will Trump refuse to leave office if he loses? (And the only reason that I bring up this possibility is because Trump, himself, has recently said that he ought to have years added to his term; perhaps he was joking.)
Whatever happens in 2020, I hope that Americans never lose sight of their neighbors’ humanity. I hope that the symbol of our country does not once again become a shattered, bloody cane.
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