All Commentary
Thursday, June 15, 2017

To Stop the Violence, Shrink the State

What the congressional baseball shooting says about our political society.

The shooting yesterday of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, several aides and capitol police officers serves as a chilling reminder as to the state of American politics. We are no longer a nation of civil public discourse. We have finally seen someone take matters into their own hands and express how they feel justice and policy should be made.

This is an act of domestic terrorism from one point of view. It is an act of patriotism from another. It is clear that we as a nation, do not agree on what it means to be patriotic.

Disgusting but Not Surprising

If the people who displayed faux violence were all right with those displays, why should they be outraged now?

James Hodgkinson’s actions are only a real physical outburst of acts that have been mimed in the media and on college campuses across the country. Violent outbursts, such as the burning of debris and destruction of property at Berkeley College in California over an appearance of right-wing pundit, Milo Yiannopolous, Kathy Griffin’s gruesome photo depicting her beheading the President and, most recently, a version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar which replaced Donald Trump for Caesar are all only the roots of the cause spurring someone like Mr. Hodgkinson to commit terrible acts.

If the people who displayed this faux violence were completely alright with those displays, why should they be outraged now? My guess is that this shared sentiment of the removal of individuals you find to be in stark opposition to your viewpoints has not and will not fade from our public and private discourse anytime soon.

As someone who is fairly vocal about their political views, I have received and have witnessed others that I know receive death threats through social media channels for expressing differing views than many members of the left. This is not uncommon in our society today. Many internet trolls or those who fancy themselves champions of left or right leaning policy and their causes use hateful and inflammatory rhetoric to make their points.

Future conflicts may not be hashed out in a television studio alone.

When your entire political philosophy is built on the principles of command and control through force, why would your rhetoric be any different? Mr. Hodgkinson’s action in light of his beliefs is only a further escalation in a string of events that we have seen unfolding in this nation. Are we really surprised that it has come to this?

There are two political ideologies at play in this country. Some who believe that command and control through socialistic and perhaps fascistic means is the only way to achieve a great society and others who believe in more limited government, empowering citizens and all that entails.

The independent middle of this nation is rapidly evaporating. More and more people are galvanizing themselves to the farthest left or right of their worldviews and are continuously willing to take strong action to make their points heard. Battle lines are being drawn, and future conflicts in this country may not be hashed out in a television studio alone.

An Assault on Freedom

Patriotism is in the eye of the beholder. The majority of Americans both left and right will agree that Mr. Hodgkinson’s actions are heinous and despicable. Anyone who attacks another individual, no matter your motivation, has violated the principles of individual liberty and our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is clear. However, aren’t there many people in this country who most likely still do agree with the alleged politics and could potentially hold similar motivations to this man?

This is not a one-sided partisan issue although the level of hate and anger on the left seems to have escalated to a fever pitch.

In America, we only punish crime after the fact and motivations and actions are two separate things. But the motivations to incite violence or depict violence against members of an opposition party, that is a serious problem.

If James Hodgkinson believed that he was taking the phrase uttered by Thomas Jefferson, ‘The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,’ as justification for his actions, what then is our recourse?

Many people have already expressed they’d like to see the President and potentially his administration dead. They want to and have expressed that free speech will not be exercised on their campuses. Numerous stories can be found where people with strong political beliefs rail against those in opposition to them. This is not a one-sided partisan issue although the level of hate and anger on the left seems to have escalated to a fever pitch.

Our founders put in place a government founded on the principles of individual liberty and freedom. Our Constitution and system of government enshrine individual representation. Mr. Hodgkinson’s assault on GOP leaders is an assault on the individuals who voted for these men. It is an assault on freedom. It is an assault on the way of life that those men seek to set in law for the rest of America.

Mr. Hodgkinson’s actions were designed to strike fear and put an end to discussion. We are witnessing the same rhetoric of hate both on social media and in the mainstream media.

If you use force to impose your will on others, that will is inherently infringing on the rights of others.

We are a divided nation. The differences are becoming starker. When will we be ready to admit that we have two facets of the same religion at war, at least intellectually, and now in small parts, physically, in our nation? Both sides of the aisle who support increased governmental control in our lives are participating in state religion.

The problem is that when you believe the state is the one necessary for making your life into the life you want, you can only see those who would stand in the way of the state’s ability to do so, as someone who is a direct threat to your way of life. Mr. Hodgkinson allegedly saw Steve Scalise and the rest of the Trump administration as that. He simply had the courage to put action to rhetoric. This is an extremely dangerous and frightening development.

So What Do We Do?

Only one solution exists to truly end the vitriolic nature of media confrontation and now physical confrontations of ideals. We need to limit the power that government has to influence our lives. Give power back to the people. We need to start championing individual rights, and our government should empower people to succeed outside of government interference. If you need to use force to impose your will on others, that will is inherently infringing on the rights of others.

Once we understand this fact, we will be able to limit this type of violence in this country and around the world.

Mr. Hodgkinson’s actions are no different than those of ISIS.

I do not believe Mr. Hodgkinson is a patriot as I disagree with his views but I believe him to be honest in his beliefs. He was truly willing to act on his agenda and achieve his ends through force. If Mr. Scalise had perished, Mr. Hodgkinson would have removed someone who has the power to oppose his political viewpoints and impose his political will on him. This is a scary and dangerous environment.

Anyone who is motivated to put cause above self is for that cause a patriot or, if you prefer, a zealot. Mr. Hodgkinson’s actions are no different than those of ISIS. With so many depictions and small acts of aggression against people of differing political views in this country are we truly surprised by his actions? If we are, we are naive.

Numerous posts on social media today prove that there is little sympathy from certain individuals and groups for GOP lawmakers and staff who were injured today. With death threats against right-leaning individuals rampant, is everyone who shares the similar beliefs of Mr. Hodgkinson willing to condemn his action? I hope so. However, the political climate in this country would suggest otherwise.

A man lost his life for his cause today. Several individuals were injured defending their cause. It’s time we decide whose side we are on and if we’re willing to use force or allow force to be used to achieve whatever political ends we follow. Perhaps it’s time we realized that the use of force to achieve political ends is inherently evil.

Reprinted from Medium.