Eric Greitens, the former Missouri governor now running for the Senate, released a campaign video Monday in which he brandishes a shotgun and joins a SWAT team storming a home to hunt RINOs — Republicans in Name Only. “Get a RINO hunting permit,” Greitens says. “There’s no bagging limit.”
Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar tweeted an animé video in November of a character resembling himself killing a character resembling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, as a candidate in 2020, posted on Facebook an image of herself with a gun beside images of Ocasio-Cortez and two Democratic colleagues and urged viewers to go on “offense against these socialists.”
And we’re surprised when real life goes tragically wrong?
Our body politic is sick. Sick with violence.
This month, a man who wanted to kill Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was arrested near the judge’s house after calling 911 to report himself. A few days before, another man killed a Wisconsin judge who had sentenced him to prison 17 years earlier; he also was targeting Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, among others.
Several witnesses at the House Jan. 6 hearings testified about death threats they and family members had received simply because they were following their constitutional duties. Committee members received bolstered protection after threats to them, including Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who was warned by letter that he’d be executed along with his wife and 5-month-old son.
Nationwide, we’ve seen videos of meetings of school boards, town boards, library boards, city councils and others, where officials were threatened and sometimes assaulted by audience members who also rave at each other. We’ve seen countless mass shootings, violent street protests, and incidents of road rage. We’ve seen airline passengers attack flight personnel over mask restrictions. We’ve seen the riot at the Capitol.
House committee member Adam Schiff noted this grim chronicle and the many public servants quitting because of death threats and said, “This is not who we are. It must not become who we are.”
But it’s too late, congressman. This is who we are, and exactly whom we’ve become.
The bromide Schiff recited is comfort no longer. Nor can we reassure ourselves by saying that any of these threats are idle ones.
Confrontation is now a favored form of expression. Thoughts are expressed as warnings. Distrust and dislike are reflexive. Everyone seems on edge. And the Supreme Court’s new gun ruling has increased the possibility of deadly consequences for disagreeing with anyone with a hair-trigger temper, especially in places like New York.
We can reach for perspective by observing that mayhem is committed by a minority. But a minority is enough to destroy a people from within when enough leaders remain silent or disingenuously downplay the truth we plainly see.
How did we get to this point of easy resort to violence to resolve differences or register disagreement? Certainly, the political violence encouraged during the last administration, stoked to a fever pitch on Jan. 6, poisoned the interpersonal well. But we were already traveling down that road.
More protection for those targeted is a short-term answer. But it’s not a real solution. The real solution is much harder. We have to dial down the rhetoric, say clearly this is wrong, try to understand our foes, practice empathy and respect, and purge ourselves of the notion that violence is ever a justifiable response to disappointment or difference.
We might not be going gently into that good night. But darkness does beckon.
Columnist Michael Dobie's opinions are his own.