As Theater in the Park stated regarding the recent controversy over its staging of Julius Caesar: “ those who attempt to defend democracy by undemocratic means pay a terrible price and destroy the very thing they are fighting to save.” Idiots like this shooter simply do not seem to understand the lessons of history.
I wish more people would learn the lesson of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – violence to accomplish political ends seldom works out well. Brutus wanted to empower democracy by killing a populist tyrant-to-be. It resulted in the end of the Republic.
But no. We get idiots like this. He is not the first (John Wilkes Booth famously stated that he was being hunted “for doing what Brutus was honored for.” He obviously did not see the rest of the play.) The honor Bruts received was death and the destruction of the very thing he thought he was protecting.
They act like authoritarians thinking they can singlehandedly spark revolutionary change by their violent actions. That is simply not how successful, long-term change is accomplished by the actions of one person. Single peace-makers, such as Ghandi or King, create much more longstanding and productive change than the violent actions of a lone-wolf assassin.
I think these guys always think that “this” time they will get it right, that the way to stop autocrats is to simply kill them. But the rise of authoritarians in a democratic nation is not caused by the rise of a single leader or party. These are just symptoms of a weakness infecting the entire culture.
We are living through a time of rapid change, of shifting from one paradigm for organizing our society to another. The old ways are weaker but the new ways are not fully empowered.
This opens the way for authoritarians to make a play, just as Julius Caesar did. He was one of the wealthiest men of the age. He had an army and worked the populace to follow him, not the Senate. Coupled with a mostly corrupt, craven, callous, criminal and cowardly Senate, he gained tremendous autocratic power, making himself dictator. (I’ve written some about his direct responsibility in making the Senate so weak.)
Today we see similar attempts by authoritarians who do not care for democracy.
Both the authoritarian Left and Right work to break our democratic processes. The former would be happy with a monarch. The latter with a Committee of Public Safety (French Revolution reference). Neither cares about our democratic Republic.
Liberals and conservatives who both honor individual freedoms and civil rights must overcome the attempts to separate us. we need to come together to battle these authoritarian pressures being exerted. I’ll know we are on the path to recovery when that happens.
Image: Ángel M. Felicísimo