The gathering storm clouds of political dissent should frighten all Americans. A quick look back in history reminds us that there was a time in our nation when political disagreements were argued on the debate stage and settled at the ballot box.
Sadly, over the past years, months, weeks, and yes even days, once reasoned debates have turned into shouting matches, threats, intimidation, and even worse, mob rule. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law.”
Instead of charting a course which will allow our nation to arrive at a safe harbor, we have chosen to chart a course of political dissent which will only result in the ship of state crashing on the jagged rocks of political discourse. Consider a few words from “The Wreck of the Hesperus” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, words which paint a cruel word picture of where America is headed if we do not change the course we have charted as a people.
The breakers were right beneath her bows,
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.
She struck where the white and fleecy waves
Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
Like the horns of an angry bull.
All too often we witness the horns of an angry bull, an angry bull which believes it is appropriate to attack a senator and his wife while they dine at a restaurant. All too often we witness the horns of an angry bull which believes it is appropriate to threaten a supreme court nominee and his family over political disagreements.
All too often we witness the horns of an angry bull which believes it is appropriate to use a gun to disrupt a baseball practice of the political party which the angry bull does not support. And now, we witness the horns of an angry and cowardly bull intent on causing harm to a former president and his wife.
As Americans we need to ask just exactly who was responsible for charting this course of political dissent, a course which will result in America’s ship of state finding itself being tossed and crashed on the cruel rocks, cruel rocks which will rip open her side as she sinks to the bottom of a raging sea. Just exactly what did those responsible for charting this dangerous course intend to accomplish when they poked the angry bull?
As Americans we need to ask whether those responsible for charting this dangerous course of political dissent considered for a single moment that once the angry bull was let out of the barn that the angry bull could not, and would not, be stopped before the angry bull gored the side of civility which was once the foundation of our great nation.
As we consider the future of America, as a people we need to consider and ponder for a moment the last lines of Longfellow’s poem when he wrote,
At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.
The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
On the billows fall and rise.
Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman’s Woe!
In the end, as a people do we want to continue on the course of political dissent which has been charted by a handful of political dissidents, or do we want to abandon the charted course which will only destroy our nation.
The answer should be simple for all Americans regardless of political disagreements, as Americans, we should all demand that the charted course of political dissent should be torn up a new a new course should be charted, a charted course which returns us to the days when political disagreements were argued on the debate stage and settled at the ballot box.
So, as I often do, I will ask each of you to join me on my imaginary mountaintop as we consider as a people whether we want to continue on the charted course of dangerous political dissent, or whether we want to abandon the charted course and draft a new charted course of civility, a charted course which will return the angry bull to the barn, and end the destruction which looms on the horizon, a horizon filled with gathering storm clouds.
Mark Wohlander, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, practices law in Lexington, Kentucky.
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