|Shays' Rebellion Was The First|
It Won't Be The Last
Over 330 million peace-loving, law-abiding Americans, regardless of political affiliation, have a common enemy we can, and should unite against: violence in the public square.
Over 330 million Americans have not participated in any protest ever. They go about their daily lives trying to make a living every year. They watch the news and see tens of thousands of concerned citizens participating in various protests — which is great, as long as they were peaceful protests. Our First Amendment freedoms prevent the government from denying “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”.
The right to peaceably assemble to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of a policeman in Minneapolis was entirely appropriate and legal. The right to peacefully assemble to protest the outcome of the election was also entirely appropriate and legal.
Several hundred people nationwide, however, perhaps a thousand total, decided to take it upon themselves to use violence instead of peacefully protesting. BLM leaders say their protests were “mostly peaceful,” but fringe members, possibly antifa, caused the violence. Trump supporters say their Capitol Hill protest was “mostly peaceful,” but fringe members caused the violence.
Regardless of who started it, any type of physical violence against an innocent person or their property is wrong. No one participating in any sort of peaceful assembly to petition the government for a redress of their grievances has any personal right or privilege to pick up a brick to break windows, torch businesses or storm the US Capitol. They certainly have no right to harm or kill other human beings.
When any damage or physical harm is caused, the perpetrators should be arrested and prosecuted under equal application of the law. Our hope is that the guilty parties who stormed the Capitol will be swiftly arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to prison. Such a strict standard would set the bar for any prosecution of guilty parties in any future protest. The law has to be equally and equitably applied or else we will continue to see the violence of the past continue unabated.
People on both sides try to calibrate acts of violence by degrees of severity and acceptability depending on their point of view. Such arguments violate any sensibility of logic. An innocent bystander shot dead during a violent protest does not have the luxury of telling the rest of us they died for a “just” cause or not. Innocent bystanders who have their businesses and personal property destroyed by violent protestors did not get to vote on whether their property should be sacrificed for the cause, whatever it may be.
Violence is the problem, not our different political positions.
We, as Americans who love freedom and peace, have to come together across the ideological divide and collectively condemn violence as a whole, or else America will degenerate into an unwitting acceptance of violence forever on situational-ethics grounds.
The next time someone takes to the streets to protest any perceived grievance with which you agree, ask yourself if you would put a sign in your front yard and invite them to come destroy your property, break out your windows, torch your personal belongings and put your family at risk of physical bodily harm or even death. Better yet, cancel all insurance so you can’t hide behind the “Oh well. It is just property. My insurance company will pay for it” argument.
If you are willing to put your life and your property at risk for a cause, God bless you. But don’t act like it is an academic exercise to debate in a dorm room or salon parlor when innocent people you do not know are put at risk. That is not fair to them.
Is America at a time in our nation’s history similar to the early days of our republic, when violent demonstrations against direct taxation, led by Daniel Shays (1786-87), John Fries (1799) and James McFarland (Whiskey Rebellion, 1791-94), had to be vanquished by armed force?
We certainly hope not. But 99.999% of our nation’s 330 million+ citizens deserve to be protected from the capricious acts of a few hundred violent protestors nationwide who seek to do physical harm to the rest of us.
We can’t function as a free nation without peace enforced by force.
(first published in North State Journal 1/13/21)