Column: ‘Eye-popping’ new survey on Americans’ acceptance of political violence should be a wake-up call to leaders – and the public
The following letter was written in response to Gallup’s recent analysis of American attitudes towards political violence, which was released Tuesday (June 7) in the wake of yet another mass shooting in the U.S. Since the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, where 11 people were murdered; since the shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, where six people were killed; and since the Virginia Tech shootings, an average of nine people have been killed each week by violent individuals, according to the FBI.
More than 200,000 Americans have been killed by guns since the founding of our nation. A shocking number of those deaths have occurred in acts of political violence.
As a nation, we should realize that there are two sides to the coin. There is the side that views political violence as an acceptable means of expressing political opposition; and there is the side that views political violence as an extension of the normalcy of human existence. Most Americans don’t even know the difference. They see political violence, no matter its source, as part of the everyday fabric of our society.
In fact, many people view political assassination – from assassinating Presidents to assassinating political enemies using a weapon of mass destruction – as just another part of the fabric of life. To them it is part of the price we pay to live in a free society.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that political violence is often a product of our democracy, most Americans still don’t view it as something that we need to get rid of.
To most Americans, it’s just one more part of the “unacceptable behavior” – and they’ll happily engage in it as long as it can get them elected, regardless of how it affects the quality of that democracy.
On the other hand, in the eyes of mass shooters, it is a way to signal their political allegiance to a cause, to someone, whose principles they agree with. It is a way to express themselves as they’re choosing to make their mark on the