July 26, 2017

Rights in Danger

Dr. Malcolm Cross

The attempt to murder Republican congressmen and senators as they were practicing their baseball skills the day before their annual game with their Democratic counterparts may not have been predictable.  Attempts to lay blame and propose “solutions” are perfectly predictable—and potentially dangerous.

Many on the right are trying to link the attempted murder spree with increasingly hostile Democratic rhetoric about the putative outcomes of Republican policy proposals.  “PEOPLE WILL DIE!” the Democrats shriek.  Whether the Republicans want to cut taxes, change Obamacare, change environmental regulations, whatever, we’re always being told that “PEOPLE WILL DIE!”

Another tactic of the right is to remind the public of all the proposals for violence against President Trump and his family made in the name of “art” or “comedy” by his detractors in the “entertainment” industry, including:

  • Madonna’s expressed desire to “blow up the White House;”
  • The staging of a new version of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in which the assassinated Roman dictator is dressed as a modern business man looking like You-Know-Who;
  • The murder of a Trump-like clown in a rapper’s music video; and, of course
  • Kathy Griffin’s video and photo of her holding what is made to look like President Trump’s severed and bloodied head. 

The implication is that the leftwing nut job who opened fire on the Republicans was somehow motivated by the hate and filth being pumped out by the Democrats and their allies in the “entertainment” industry.  But there are two problems with this line of reasoning:  First, while we know that Nut Job was a Bernie Sanders activist and a member of extreme leftwing groups on Facebook, we do not yet know what specifically triggered him to go after the Republicans.  Second, whatever rules might be developed to muzzle Democratic politicians and entertainers and prevent them from speaking either of the impending deaths to allegedly follow the implementation of Republican policies, or to advocate or dramatize the assassination of President Trump, could someday be used to suppress opinion, whether good, bad, or ugly, emanating from the right.  Once government starts censorship, censorship becomes easier until there’s nobody with any right to say anything of which the government disapproves.

So what’s coming out of the left?  The New York Times, perhaps suffering from embarrassment that Nut Job was a hardcore leftwing loon, chose to divert attention from his political affiliation by publishing an editorial accusing Sarah Palin for the attempted murder, in 2011, of a liberal Democratic congresswoman, Gabby Gifford.  Never mind that no evidence of any connection between Palin’s writings and the assassination attempt has ever been produced; I suppose the Times thought it was a good diversionary tactic.  A more serious effort may be to offer more proposals for gun control.

Gun control seems to be the fallback position for Democrats whenever a monster goes on a shooting rampage.  Never mind who the monster was, what his motives were, etc., etc.  It’s always the fault of guns and the NRA.  Less discussed is whether the new proposed gun control measures would have prevented the monster from getting the murder weapon in the first place.  Now, I’m all in favor of mandatory background checks for gun purchasers to reduce the chance that a criminal or a crackpot will get one, although I suspect that the gun market is too fluid and open to be affected by more rigorous background checks.  Yet it’s worth looking into and one hopes the NRA will not obstruct the implementation of any good ideas that actually make it more difficult for troublemakers to get guns without hurting the rights of the innocent to get them.  Yet it must also be remembered that the more gun control we have, the less freedom anyone has to acquire guns for legitimate purposes of self-protection and defense.  And we almost saw what could have happened if guns cannot be so acquired.  Nut Job had a rifle.  His victims had no guns.  He could have picked them off easily had not Representative Scalise’s 2-member security detail been present and charged him with blazing pistols and brought him down.

One can only hope that Representative Scalise and the others wounded in the assault recover quickly and fully, that the security team members are honored for their life-saving heroism, and everyone will be shocked into enough decency to tone down the political rhetoric for a while, at least. But long after the wounded are healed and back to work, long after our heroes have been honored, and long after our politicians and “entertainers” end their “decency break” and get back to business as usual, we’ll be debating—as we must debate—safety versus freedom.  What will be under assault then are not individuals, but our most precious civil liberties enshrined in the First and Second Amendments.

Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present).  He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014.  He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.

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