Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Political Jihad

The scenes are disturbingly familiar. In one city, car windows are smashed. In others around the country, campaign offices are stormed and at least one staffer is injured. Anonymous death threats are made to candidates running against incumbents, one such threat even made while hanging a sign out of a car and then zooming off before an indentity can be established.

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for pointing these incidents out. I've been reading elsewhere about campaign signs being stolen (this is a frequent occurrence), mutilated, or set ablaze. The symbol of the swastika is burned on at least one lawn.

From my perspective, it matters little whether these acts were committed by democrats or republicans, liberals or conservatives, blondes or brunettes. They are, in fact, the acts of desperate, cowardly people who must use intimidation (or worse) to make their point because they are utterly incapable of articulating it in open debate.

Elsewhere around the world are reports of car bombs, resorts destroyed, hostages taken, tortured, and beheaded. We live in a world where we must now constantly look over our shoulders, lest we become the next 9/11 victims. Terrorists win when they strike fear in our hearts - hence their name. Terror prevents otherwise rational beings from living ordered and productive lives. It causes paranoia that paralyzes people and causes them to withdraw into a shelter - real or imagined - in order to escape. When others refuse to back down and hide, the terror increases.

It may well be a huge stretch to call acts of intimidation as practiced by political extremists in this country "terrorism." But not to me.

No, I think "terrorist" perfectly describes anyone who would "storm" a campaign office and even unintentionally (which they, of course, claim) inflict bodily harm on another person. Only a terrorist, acting under the motivation of cowardice, would make death threats against someone who is exercising his or her right to run for public office.

Political extremists in this country do not understand the real effects of their actions. Terrorists bred in other parts of the world are blinded to those effects by their zealotry. Terrorism itself, wherever and however practiced, only stiffens the resolve of all but those who are, for their part, more cowardly than the perpetrators.

Think about it: Is President Bush likely to back away from the global war on terrorism simply because more hostages are taken or attacks are stepped up? No. The war will continue until the terrorists are either wiped out, or no longer have the means to carry out their jihad. Is President Bush any more likely to agree that overtime laws must change simply because union members ransack campaign offices? Of course not.

There's an old parable about the wind and the sun having a discussion to decide who was the mightier. After bragging back and forth, a man walked by wearing a coat. It was decided that whoever could force the man to take off his coat would be declared the mightiest. The wind tried first, and blew with all his might. (Of course these were men. Can't you feel the testosterone?) However, the harder the wind blew, the more tightly the man wrapped that coat around himself. When the sun tried, he gently warmed the man until, shortly, the man removed the coat and the sun was declared the winner. The moral, of course, is that gentle persuasion may succeed where force cannot.

I realize that someone will try to apply that parable to the war in Iraq. My response is that we've spent decades trying the gentle approach, and the foolish terrorists didn't take the hint. This war is a consequence of that stubbornness. The real application of the parable makes more sense when applied to this election. If you feel the only way to get my attention is to ruin someone's car, you've already lost your argument. You can only stiffen my resolve and make me wrap my coat tighter around me. If, on the other hand, you engage me in a rational debate without histrionics, I can at least agree to see if a compromise can be reached.

The gentle art of politics. That would be a beginning.

UPDATE: Score one for the terrorists. A senator closes his office and skips town.

UPDATE II: Michelle's column goes into greater depth on this disturbing trend.

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