This is the last column before election day. It is, therefore, my final opportunity to fulfill my promise from a couple of weeks ago to talk about what makes these midterms so important. As is so often the case, reality stepped in to make my point for me.
Last week, a man broke into the California home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, armed with zip-ties, duct tape, a hammer, and a list of targets. She, and her security detail, were on the other side of the continent and only her 82-year-old husband, Paul Pelosi, was home. The assailant tried to tie up Mr. Pelosi, who had the presence of mind to call 911 and leave the line open, which probably saved his life. He was hospitalized with a skull fracture and his attacker taken into custody. Throughout the attack, the intruder had yelled “Where’s Nancy?” and told police his plan had been to tie up Paul and wait for Nancy to return home. It was soon discovered that the attacker, whom I won’t name, was a Trump-supporting, QAnon-believing, January 6- endorsing ultra-right-wing conservative. He had been posting about conspiracy theories like “Pizzagate” and “The Big Steal,” and denying the Holocaust.
Almost immediately, Fox News hosts were attempting to perform sleight-of-hand (AKA misdirection) by proclaiming the attack was proof Democrats were letting crime spiral out of control. As if anyone believed this was a random crime. As if no one remembered the hundreds of people clamoring in the hallways of our Capitol calling out “where’s Nancy” or stating on-camera that they planned to murder her… and several other people. I have spent column after column here warning that the political violence stirred up by Trump and his far-right enablers would probably happen again. This is just one example of it. If the police had not arrived when they did we would probably be discussing a murder.
Some people are going to say that this attacker was just deranged, that his mental problems were the sole cause of this incident (and would somehow find a way to blame Democrats for that). Well, maybe he is. But is he any more or less deranged than the thousands of ordinary Americans who assaulted those cops at the Capitol? Or the millions who spew violent, threatening rhetoric across social media? I doubt it very much.
Some, on the other side of the political aisle from me, will downplay far-right violence by mentioning crime statistics in Chicago, or pointing to the handful of incidents when Black Lives Matter protesters were involved in violence. To say there is violence or dangerous rhetoric on both sides is not an equivalency when 90 percent of it is on one side in particular, and is spurred on daily by the guy these folks idolize for some unfathomable reason.
For Pete’s sake, those folks tried to kill cops and members of Congress -in broad daylight, on live television.
So there’s an important issue for you, political violence. Another one: absolute disregard for the law.
That should come as no surprise. Trump has been disregarding the law his whole life. And what greater disregard could there be than trying to hold onto power by directing a violent coup attempt? This is the Frankenstein’s Monster that we have unleashed, and it threatens to suck all the oxygen out of democracy.
I said last week that recently I have had some causes for hope, and I have. Some people have told me they are tired of it all and want to go back to two parties disagreeing but working together for the good of the country. I hope that can change the tide. But some of the folks saying it is all “both sides” need to take a clear, hard look at where most of it is actually coming from and own up to it.
--Troy D. Smith, a White County native, is a novelist and a history professor at Tennessee Tech. His words do not necessarily represent TTU.
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