Here’s What’s at Stake
by Kelvin Wade
“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” –Martin Luther King Jr.
During a recent Republican town hall meeting in Oglethorpe County, Georgia a man stood up and asked Representative Paul Broun, “Who is going to shoot Obama?” Incredulously, Broun answered, “The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president,” and went on to say he hoped Obama could be voted out of office and replaced with a conservative. What? That’s it?
In light of the unprecedented vitriol aimed at this President ever since he assumed office and, for that matter, even before he was elected to office, as well as the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the first word out of Broun’s mouth should’ve been, “Security!” Why couldn’t this representative take a strong stand against this outrageous question?
After all, Presidential assassination is the elephant in the room. It’s what we fear in the back of our minds when we talk about the poisonous political climate. So how would this nation act in the aftermath of the first presidential assassination in 48 years? More specifically, how would we react in our present political climate to the assassination of America’s first black president? I think history provides us with sobering clues.
Of course, the majority of the nation would be absolutely devastated and grief-stricken. At the same time, progressives would immediately take the Right Wing to task for the climate of hate fomented by irresponsible bloggers and some conservative radio talk show hosts. They would press their case against Fox News for helping fan the flames of animus against the President.
For their part, some Right Wing critics won’t be able to contain themselves and will add fuel to the fire with intemperate defenses and ill-timed attacks on the President’s memory. An opposition that opposes everything the Obama Administration stands for down to the First Lady’s advocating healthy eating and breastfeeding, cannot be expected to be circumspect even in the aftermath of an assassination.
But while this fierce argument will play out on talking head shows, editorial pages, blogs, classrooms and barstools, history tells us the nation will burn.
While mind-numbing grief will roll across the country from sea to shining sea, rage will accompany it. Many African-Americans, incensed about losing the first black President, would take to the streets with Molotov cocktails and weapons as their voices.
When Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968, riots broke out in over 100 cities. In Washington DC, 1,200 buildings burned, a dozen people were killed and other 1,000 injured. Over 6,000 people were arrested. In Baltimore, over 1,000 fires were set with over 4,000 people arrested. Chicago saw over 200 buildings burned.
The potential for the rage to turn racial is great. One remembers the 1992 L.A. riots following the acquittal of the four police officers that beat Rodney King. Several rioters began assaulting white people at random, culminating in the sickening beating of trucker Reginald Denny. Many innocent people will lose their lives for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time as individuals’ grief and rage fuses into mob rule.
Then there are those who would seize upon the occasion just to loot. The nation would see looting on a scale unheard of as law and order in the shadow of the death of a beloved President would completely break down.
There would need to be domestic National Guard and military mobilizations on a scale not seen since the Civil War.
Sadly, high profile conservatives would be in grave danger of “retaliation” by angry, misguided supporters of the President. Violence would beget violence.
With all due respect to President Lincoln, because of the racial component, as well as the deep political divide in the country; a breach this severe could rupture the American spirit to such a degree that the mystic chords of memory won’t swell the chorus of the union because the better angels of our nature will be no more.
That’s what’s at stake.