Letter to the Editor: What makes violence constitutional?


From Enlightenment thinking of philosophers such as Descartes, Hume, and Voltaire, our 18th-century American scholars formed ideas of liberty and justice that burned through conventional thinking throughout that century and into the next, and the next.

Credit the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution with codifying ideals of freedom, equality, and the rights of man as the basis for a national society and government.

Consider the phrase, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” written in the 20th century to illustrate Voltaire’s thoughts on freedom of speech, and another, appearing in “Freedom of Speech in Wartime,” in the Harvard Law Review in 1919: “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.”

In the 1940s and 1950s, public school children settled their disputes with these two gems. We knew them, discussed them, and relied on their wisdom.

That was before freedom of speech (to some) meant the freedom to offend with nasty words. Bad words were not used in public society then. Freedom of speech was about ideas. And that bit about how far you could swing your arms also meant you can’t destroy the property of others.

And, too, when an election was done, it was done. Don’t like it? Get peacefully to work changing opinion until the next election. Even in 2008 and 2012 those precepts still seemed to prevail. I hear that a good many people were horrified by the federal administration from 2009 to 2017, but with few exceptions and some snarky op-ed pieces, they made plans, bided their time, and got out the vote in 2016.

Who knew that even before Trump’s inauguration, before the first signature was laid to the first order, violent protests would be planned and executed, and strident calls for presidential impeachment would shout forth.

Why? What makes violence suddenly constitutional? Why does the public media, a privileged class (but save that for another discussion), seem to take joy in reporting each incursion of the war against the president?  Is this what we want?

Ann A. Hunter, Fort Valley