Politics by Thug
– by David Matthews 2
In May of 1856, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was finishing up his business in the main Senate chamber when he was viciously and mercilessly assaulted by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina. Brooks did not attack Sumner with words, as those in politics are wont to do, but with a metal-tipped cane. And he repeatedly attacked the senator, striking him in the head with his weapon until the cane broke.
I’m sure some of you would be wondering why nothing was done to stop this vicious criminal attack. Well, Brooks wasn’t there by himself. He had friends with him. Fellow Southern members of Congress, with at least one of them brandishing a pistol, kept onlookers from stopping this attack. The same kind of friends that would later make sure that he escaped any kind of accountability, and thus escaped justice.
Brooks claimed that he acted on behalf of a Senator from his own state, whom Sumner accused of carrying on with “a harlot” that he called “Slavery”. The man that Sumner criticized, Senator Andrew Butler, was related to Brooks, and thus he said he felt compelled to “protect the family honor”.
Normally protecting a family honor was handled by dueling. But Brooks declared that such a requirement only pertains to “gentlemen”, of which he pompously deemed Sumner was not. Thus he resorted to the old barbarian approach, using his cane as a troglodyte would use a club.
This would not be the first time that Brooks refused to take part in the “gentlemen’s option”. Before his death by the croup, he was challenged to a duel by Sumner’s New England colleague, which he first agreed to but then weaseled out, claiming that he would likely be murdered on the way to the dueling site in Canada.
It would be easy to call Brooks a gutless coward, but in truth he was nothing more than a thug. A barbaric, dishonorable thug pretending to be a civilized man. He acted only when surrounded by others and weaseled out of any kind of accountability for his actions whenever possible. “Honor” for him was only worth a damn when he had the upper hand.
Someone once said that politics is the art of saying “Nice Doggy” until you can find a rock. If politics involves thugs like Preston Brooks, then you should probably skip the rock and go straight to the gun.
That may sound extreme, but so were the sentiments of the time. Remember, it was just a scant few years before this country was torn apart by a bloody civil war. Vitriol was so high at the time that the Richmond Enquirer newspaper not only openly advocated further violence on Sumner, suggesting that he be assaulted in a like manner every day for the rest of his life, but that his supporters, and I quote: “have been suffered to run too long without collars. They must be lashed into submission.”
Sadly, those sentiments have been making a return.
Instead of the rhetorical bully pulpit, we now have the literal pulpit OF the bully, as conservative and neo-conservative minds have been orchestrating the masses into ugly, hate-filled mobs. Threats of violence and intimidation have appeared. Acts of insurrection have been generated and encouraged. The President of the United States is being accused of being an illegitimate leader of the country, spurned on by fraudulent and almost criminally fabricated documents that would make a drop-cloth look like the Mona Lisa in comparison. Screaming, angry mobs are disrupting town hall meetings, forcing others to rise to counter the mobs, forcing those mobs to threaten violence for DARING to being opposed.
The ghosts of Preston Brooks and his brutish cohorts have returned. All that is missing now are the metal-tipped canes.
It would be easy to say that this madness, this wanton bloodlust, is all the result of the 2008 Presidential Election season, which lasted far longer than any other election season in recent history. It would be easy to just blame it all on extremely sour grapes on behalf of the Republicans Party, upset because they lost control of both Congress and the White House in the span of just two years.
It could even be suggested that this renewed vitriol has been the result of the cultish mindset that was built up in America after the 9/11 attacks. Force-fed a steady diet of fear and hatred and demanding complete subservience and obedience for seven years has a detrimental effect on any society.
Unfortunately, this level of hate… and yes it really is HATE… has been around much longer.
In the early 1990’s, this commentator began to notice a bubbling groundswell of bile and revulsion. Intolerance for opposing viewpoints, intolerance for different opinions, a fervent religious hatred of anything that doesn’t mirror their views of how the world SHOULD be. It was this bubbling groundswell that began my focus on the cancer known as moralism and how it has perverted America.
Every so often that bubbling hate would boil over in places like Oklahoma City and the anti-abortion terrorist acts of the mid-to-late 90’s, and they would have to pull back from the brink. They would have to retreat under fear that what they were doing would escalate into something they could not control.
The events of 2001 changed the rules.
9/11 gave them a license to enact their agendas. They had a President and a Congress that was more receptive to their causes. They had an enemy to focus all their rage and hate and fury on. An enemy on the other side of the planet that couldn’t tell them apart from anyone else. They had a wedge that they could use to impose their will on society. Question their will and they would waive that bloody shirt around and accuse you of outright TREASON. They beautified the victims, deified the government, and glorified not only the soldiers, but also any and all tools used on their behalf.
And then, suddenly, it’s over with. Their friends were out of power. Their icons, their saviors, were no longer in control. Now they’re on the defensive. Now they have to fight to preserve what control they do have left. And they don’t like it! They have gotten fat and rich off bullying the world and now they have to fight to stay relevant.
Let’s get brutally honest here… we are dealing with the politics of THUGGERY and intimidation. We are dealing with people who are not too far off from the very terrorists that attacked America. In fact these same groups have SUPPORTED AND CONDONED acts of terrorism committed in this very country as long as it advances their agendas.
These are bullies, thugs, and terrorists. They are no better or different in tactics or thinking than organized criminals or violent drug lords. The only difference is that these are not strangers in another part of the world. These are our neighbors. These are our family members. These are people that we grew up with, have known all our lives, and people that we work with and interact with on a daily basis.
Worse yet, BECAUSE we know them, we are less prone to engage them in the same way as we would a stranger. That’s how they’ve managed to worm their way into positions of power over us in the first place.
And as much as this commentator would like to think otherwise, it can only get worse before it gets better.
Confronting a bully means getting hurt. They don’t back down just because you decide to stand up to them. And when violence is either implied or explicitly threatened, you either have to stand up to it and risk getting hurt, or else cower and retreat and let them win. And ending the politics of thuggery and intimidation REQUIRES that you stand up to them!
Thugs operate from a position of power. They only attack when they know the odds are in their favor. The lily-livered dishonorable thug that was Preston Brooks knew that he wouldn’t have stood a chance one-on-one against Charles Sumner. Sumner stood six-foot-four and could have easily force-fed that cane if he had a chance to defend himself. And Brooks was a failure in dueling! The reason why he walked with a cane was proof of his FAILURE. But to attack Sumner when he feels the safest, on the floor of the United States Senate, when Brooks was surrounded by friends carrying GUNS, and with Sumner constrained behind a heavy desk BOLTED to the floor, and you can see why Brooks was willing to be so barbaric.
But that’s how they work. One-on-one, they’re cowards. They’re quick to play the “poor victim” card at every opportunity when the odds aren’t in their favor. But as soon as they have numbers and/or leverage, they are as merciless as they are dishonorable.
They do this because they have no honor. They never had honor and they never will. To them, honor is nothing more than another way to justify their actions. They have no REAL sense of ethics or morals. To them, might makes right; the ends justify ANY AND ALL means; and what we call extreme or out of bounds, they refer to as standard operating procedure.
And make no mistake, THESE PEOPLE PLAY FOR KEEPS! They would not be willing to escalate it to violence if they didn’t. They’re willing to risk their ties to friends and family members, their careers, their reputations, even their very lives, to get what they want. They’re willing to risk it all in order to get their way.
The real question that you need to answer is… are you willing to do the same for what you believe in?