Daniel Baldwin: Let’s talk before it’s too late
On Aug. 1, Terry McLaughlin wrote a column about the Democratic Party in the U.S.
Two days later on Aug. 3 Darrell Berkheimer wrote a column about violence in American politics.
These were two very different columns, but both seemed to address the same core issue: extreme differences in opinion and how the American public reacts to opposing viewpoints.
One column said we must stop resorting to fear to make our political points. The other column said we have to stop our political leader(s) from inciting violence to make our political points.
The extreme viewpoints held by many of our citizens cannot be used to justify violence against those who hold opposite viewpoints. While we do not have a true democracy in the U.S., we do in fact have the next best thing, that being a Constitutional Republic; our 330 million citizens elect representatives to make our laws and (hopefully) lead our society as best as we can manage.
While I found Berkheimer’s article interesting and to the point, he did fail to take the next logical step. He clearly pointed out that our current political leader’s “base” seems to resort, on occasion, to violence to stop their opponents, but then failed to point out that the opposing side resorts, on occasion, to the very same tactic of violence to stop those who have different viewpoints.
For instance, he did not mention shooting congressmen during a softball game, or the students at some of our most prestigious universities from rioting, damaging public buildings, and forcing free speech discussions to shut down because some consider opposing viewpoints to be “hate speech,” and therefore eligible, if not required, to resort to violence to stop it. This has got to stop.
I believe that it was the Frenchman Robespierre in 1789 who said, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” He did not say that “I will resort to violence to stop you from speaking.”
Our “democracy” is built upon the ability to work out our differences and arrive at some sort of mutually agreeable solution. In 1861, our country failed to find a solution to our political differences and 700,000 Americans (2 percent of the population) died in the American Civil War to resolve the issues of that day. We cannot allow that to happen again where 6 million Americans (2 percent of our 21st century population) die to resolve the issues of our day.
We must stop the extreme rhetoric and at least try to work together using nonviolent solutions. I believe that one of the best and only truly long term solution is to have the young people of our universities agree to at least listen to each other without violence. They must be willing to convince their opponents, by the force of their argument, and not the force of their arms, that their position is the correct position. If you can’t convince by the strength of your argument, then perhaps your argument is the weaker, and possibly incorrect, position.
These young students will become the eventual leaders of our society in the next decade or two. We cannot allow them to refuse to listen to others simply because they disagree. If they insist on that recourse, our county will be doomed to repeat the mistakes of 1861.
As a Vietnam veteran, I have personally seen violence and witnessed its result. War and extreme violence rarely ever resolves anything except to toughen the victims resolve to resist.
For God’s sake, let’s talk before it becomes too late.
Daniel Baldwin lives in Grass Valley.
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