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Violence is Not the Way

By Casey Dorman

The democratic processes upon which this nation was founded were devised to prevent disagreements between citizens or between citizens and the government from being settled based on force and violence. Instead, we use voting—either directly on issues or for representatives who will speak for us—to express our opinions and disagreements. We use public assembly—a right guaranteed by our constitution—to express our approval or disapproval on issues. Through our government, we enforce laws that protect the right to express ourselves in speech or writing or art, the right to assemble and express our opinions, and the right of the press to express its opinions.

Today, many otherwise sensible people are questioning whether violence, employed by private citizens against those they believe are espousing views that threaten our democracy or some of our citizens, isn’t the correct and legitimate response to silence those who demonstrate those views.

There are reasons why this is not a good idea.

·      In general, taking matters into one’s own hands and defying the law by using violence against a fellow citizen is a solution that, if allowed, undermines both the rule of law and the guarantee of safety within our society. Personal justification for using violence cannot be the final arbiter as to when it is legitimate to use it or not. Laws, which are agreed upon by our citizens, must be the rules we follow or we lose all semblance of order in the society. No one is safe.
·      Violence provokes violence. When people are attacked, they often attack back. This has several consequences: it risks lives, it often results in the injury or even death of those not directly involved in the conflict, the side with the greatest means of using force wins – which has nothing to do with who is right or wrong.
·      Confronting ugly ideologies with violence has a history of often fueling those ideologies. By and large, small factions such as neo-Nazis in the U.S., radical terror groups, and revolutionaries have gained recruits and converts when their activities are publicized by accounts of violent confrontations against them. White Supremacists within the U.S. are using such confrontations as recruiting tools, Islamic terror groups in the Middle East have used the specter of Western military force as the bogeyman to recruit jihadists. Nonviolent opposition, conversely, has a history of gaining sympathy and support for those employing it.
·      The public’s reaction to violent confrontations is often to want to suppress it without making distinctions as to which side has the higher moral ground. The massive restriction of street protests, of public discourse and the suppression of critical voices in the media and elsewhere in Germany was supported by most of the citizenry who viewed the street violence between Nazis and Communists as frightening and disruptive and, following the Reichstag fire, which was blamed on the Communists, they allowed such suppression of free speech, resulting in only the voice of the government being allowed.
·      Overt violent revolution, as we have seen across the Middle East, has most often resulted in the collapse of order and in bloody civil war or an authoritarian takeover of the government by the military or a dictator. Even revolts that have begun peacefully, as in Syria, when protesters responded to government force by resorting to armed violence themselves, became devastating civil wars with no clear winner and millions of losers.

We have democratic processes in this country for expressing opinions and making sure that policies represent the will of the majority with guarantees of the rights of minorities. Giving them up is not wise. 

Reader Comments (3)

I'm in complete agreement with this entire essay. Well and truly stated..

August 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMark Wheeler

I re-read the paragraph about the Nazi and Communist confrontations and think this is an excellent and critical point. Maybe we should call it the "ok-then-both-of-you-go-to-your-room" syndrome, and nobody gets supper. But then again, in real life, the victim who may have a righteous cause to be violent, perhaps even a moral imperative to do so, all too often becomes the one blamed and the one whose voice is shut-down.
Engaging in violence even against injustice results in a blurring of lines between the original perpetrator and the victim because violence used by the victim gives the oppressor implicit permission to deflect blame.
Life doesn't work like the movies, and "The Hit Man's Bodyguard" doesn't play well on the real streets of Peoria or anywhere else in America, thank Goodness!

August 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBillie Kelpin

This does not mean that one can't use whatever means necessary to defend him or her self from a physical attack. This refers to mounting an attack using violence. And hate speech is not a physical attack- even if it feels like one.

August 26, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCasey Dorman

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