Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about how bad the current political climate has gotten. People have made the suggestion that the recent events in Arizona, and elsewhere around the country can directly be linked to the political vitriol we hear on a daily basis. Many believe that we are experiencing an atmosphere that has never been seen before in American politics. I disagree. A quick look at history can provide example after example of who things used to be much “worse” than they are now. Aaron Burr (then the Vice President) and Alexander Hamilton (secretary of treasury) comes to mind as the prime examples of a political atmosphere run amuck. But there are many more stories of congressman having disagreements and fights with fellow politicians.
In Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent book, Team of Rivals , she shares the account of one such fight. In 1856,after delivering an anti slavery speech filled with personal attacks particularly directed at Stephen Douglas and Andrew Butler, Sumner was beaten badly. Goodwin writes..
“Two days later Butler’s young cousin Congressman Preston Brooks entered the Senate chamber armed with a heavy cane. Walking up to Sumner, who was writing at his desk, Brooks reportedly said, “You have libelled South Carolina and my relative, and I have come to punish you.” Before Sumner could speak, Brooks brought the cane down upon his head, cudgeling him repeatedly as Sumner futilely tried to rise from his desk. Covered with blood, Sumner fell unconscious and was carried from the floor…..Left Sumner with severe injuries to his brain and spinal cord and kept him out of the Senate for three years…”
I could be wrong, but I don’t think any rhetoric has gotten to the point recently that there has been a duel, or somebody has gotten beaten by another politician. It is a fallacy to say that some people have committed crimes because of what our politicians have said. If there is no evidence to suggest that this is the reason, then we need to find the root cause of the person’s actions. It is bad journalism and laziness on our part to flippantly blame the words of politicians (in our current situation supposedly the hate mongering republicans) for what is happening in our culture. We decide what our climate is going to be like. You, me, average everyday Americans decided how we are going to respond to each other. Let’s take the initiative to respond to each other in a loving matter worthy of our creator.