Unless you had something harsh to say when they looted Macy’s Herald Square last June, you don’t have much standing for speaking harshly about what happened Wednesday at the US Capitol.
Then, I did. “The nihilists,” I wrote, “just took another bite out of the Big Apple.”
Well, violent nihilism descended upon the District of Columbia Wednesday afternoon, leaving a stain that will discolor American politics for some time to come. And President Trump’s crabbed call for peace only made matters worse.
Alas, it didn’t happen in a vacuum.
But first, this: Tear gas would have been too good for the low-rent anarchists who broke police lines to invade an iconic national public building — and who in so doing disgraced the stars and stripes they carried with them. Some cracked skulls wouldn’t have been over the line, either.
Yet let’s be clear: Political violence, mostly tolerated and too often encouraged by many of the nation’s leaders, has been part of the contemporary American social order for too long now.
It has been an especially odious presence in the Northwest — in Seattle and Portland — for months, sustained proudly by local governments, never mind the economic, social and moral damage it has caused.
Of course, one scarcely has heard a critical peep about it from the center-left side of the American political spectrum, nor from most of the media — and no surprise about that, either, given their kissing-cousin proximity to the lunatic left itself.
Then came the post-George Floyd rioting, weeks of sporadic looting and arson accompanied by incessant social disruption; if not intended to move national politics hard left, the chaos has had that effect.
And now this, a horrific afternoon for all who honor the principles embraced by America’s founders — indeed, an anarchistic attack on those principles that may not have been abetted by the president of the United States, but which certainly was neither discouraged nor condemned by him.
How ironic that Trump’s continuing insistence that his presidency has been stolen from him — even as he called on Wednesday’s demonstrators to “go home” — is more likely to foment further violence than it is to curtail it.
He lost the election, but he might have taken some comfort from the fact that while the Democrats may have gained the White House, they did it without much of a mandate.
That changed Wednesday, when years of left-wing Democratic bad behavior was rewarded with a profoundly significant, debate-shaping temper tantrum by Trump supporters — most, presumably, Republicans.
But all this extends beyond partisan advantage-taking.
History, especially the history of the 20th century, teaches that that thuggery brings more thuggery, that street-fighting begets storm troopers.
When a significant segment of the political order rationalizes — to say nothing of encourages — riot, arson and looting, there is no reason to expect an opposing faction to respond any other way than in kind.
Acknowledging this isn’t an exercise in false moral equivalence, it’s a statement of simple fact. Make that: ominous, unavoidable, chilling fact.
There is no reason to expect a de-escalation of the rancor or mutual rhetorical disarmament of any sort. No doubt millions of Republican Trump supporters today stand horrified by Wednesday’s events — just as millions of liberal Democrats no doubt were shocked by the post-George Floyd looting.
But this is the digital age; the folks in the middle don’t define the debate. The “resistance” does, and now, it seems, the election deniers are going to have their say.
If there is one thing the country needs more than anything else right now — more than an end to the pandemic and more than a robust economic recovery — it’s an immediate, bipartisan embrace of zero tolerance for politically motivated violence of any sort.
No more a-wink-and-a-nod for looting and arson, of course. But also swift, public condemnation of spitting on sidewalk diners’ food, of spray-painting opponents homes — of public, physical political intimidation of any sort.
Wednesday in Washington, America learned precisely where that sort of thing leads.
Originally published at https://nypost.com/2021/01/06/political-violence-must-be-denounced-by-the-right-and-the-left/ on .