Don’t equate Capitol attackers with political conservatives - or with rational behavior | READER COMMENTARY
For The Baltimore Sun|
Feb 26, 2021 at 2:02 PM
Individuals do not fit comfortably onto a straight line from left to right, liberal to conservative, because their positions on specific topics may differ from others sharing the label, based on personal experience, research and negotiation. Even on that convenient linear construct of political difference and voting tendencies, there is no place for lawbreakers (”Takeaways from Congress’ first hearing on the Capitol riot,” Feb. 23).
Conservatives who refuse to align themselves with rabble-rousers, vandals and murderers do not deserve to be sullied by sharing a label with them. Threatening speech and destructive acts do not conserve — they destroy. Those who want to “slaughter” the representatives of legal authority have no right to be identified as “conservative.”
Neither are they revolutionaries talking and acting from political conviction. Anger is their only connection to the political and human consequences of their mythology, language and actions. They have no structured aftermath. The only plan is to fight.
Many angry people lack positive ways to express or enhance diminished personas, so they bully and hurt others, imitating their childish heroes. Anyone can talk and act badly when thwarted, even actual children.
When my loud, strong 3-year-old tried to get his way by throwing a kicking and screaming tantrum, we both nearly went down a flight of stairs. The next time, I turned him around and put him face down over my hip, gently restraining him until he tired. He tried a third tantrum, confirming it would not get him what he wanted, nor could he hurt me for not giving in. As a loving family, we moved on with guidance toward specific good behaviors such as effective displacement, negotiation and sharing, and by first grade, calling on his innate empathy to imagine how his actions affected others’ feelings. These days, he is an emergency room doctor dedicated (at a personal risk that became reality) to the healing of others.
Many have acted to begin to heal our damaged national political structure using firm restraint — the secure isolation of the bad actors — and moving on to the repair of the political and broad human consequences of their leaders’ tantrums.
To prevent further damage, the media can take responsibility for restraining messaging designed to elicit the worst in their audiences. We deserve nothing less than the prompt correction and deletion of fraudulent claims and conspiracy theories: no false cries of “Fire!” Threats and target images also have no appropriate public stage. Hopefully, we can expect the permanent silencing of speech and images that are deceiving, hurtful or threatening on privately-owned but very publicly disseminated media.
Each of us can abandon hate-talk and ugly labels. We can dismiss claims involving aspersions on individuals or groups. We can politely correct misinformation. We can sympathize with and help those who hurt. We can support campaigns and vote to keep bad actors and bad talkers out of positions of authority.
With tantrums sidelined, we can come to accept what other loving, practical guidance or legislation is needed to enable our better selves.