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Our view: Americans must denounce violence
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Our view

Our view: Americans must denounce violence

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“When do we get to use the guns?”

That shocking question was raised Monday during a rally in Boise, Idaho, conducted by right-wing provocateur Charlie Kirk.

The speaker, who has yet to be identified, continued: “ No, and I’m not — that’s not a joke. I’m not saying it like that. I mean, literally, where’s the line? How many elections are they going to steal before we kill these people?”

The crowd cheered and applauded the idea of killing fellow Americans on American soil.

Kirk’s response started off well: “I’m going to denounce that.”

But he continued: “They are trying to provoke you and everyone here. They are trying to make you do something that will be violent that will justify a takeover of your freedoms and liberties, the likes of which we have never seen.”

So we have a few questions.

Who are “they?” What exactly have “they” done to provoke violence? Is it as much as those who promote former President Trump’s Big Lie of voter fraud have done?

Kirk had the perfect opportunity to denounce the use of violence for any reason — but, instead, he used the opportunity to keep the fires of hatred and resentment against “them” smoldering. Just like Trump did when he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

It’s difficult to overstate how dangerous this kind of rhetoric is.

The same style of gaslighting was practiced on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Republican senators excoriated Attorney General Merrick Garland for trying to quell violent threats and actions against school officials. They portrayed Garland’s recent memo — pledging support for such school officials — as an attempt to stifle conservatives’ free speech rights.

Garland kept his cool, continually reminding senators of his position: Free speech is fine, but violence isn’t.

Both incidents are examples of the funhouse-mirror world being erected by far-right activists — and their enablers in Congress — that portray bullies as victims and victims as bullies in ways that could make some actors feel their violence is justified. It’s “them” doing this to “us.” In a country that’s already a powder keg because of the ill effects of COVID-19, their rhetoric could easily backfire and explode.

Let’s be clear: This is not a “both sides” problem.

As unhappy as Democrats were with Trump’s reign, they didn’t propose “Second Amendment solutions” and stockpile weapons to prepare for “our next civil war.” There were no cosplay fantasies about their “1776 moment.”

Far-right conservatives sometimes point to Democrats’ supposed support for the destruction committed during last summer’s Black Lives Matter rallies — which they exaggerate and repeat ad infinitum — as Democrats’ own approval of violence.

But Democratic authorities, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and House Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, regularly condemned such destruction. The top Democrat, then-nominee Joe Biden, wrote in a statement that “burning down communities and needless destruction is not (right). Violence that endangers lives is not. Violence that guts and shutters businesses that serve the community is not.”

That’s in sharp contrast to those who are now downplaying the violence perpetrated against Capitol police on Jan. 6. Some — like Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — are about a tweet away from unambiguously calling for the violent overthrow of the American government.

Not all conservatives approve of this trend toward violence, of course — but nearly all of those who approve are conservatives.

The worst part of the right-wing appeal to violence is that it relies so heavily on falsehoods — not only Trump’s Big Lie, but on false claims of anti-white racism and perversion being taught in our public schools; hysterical claims that a minor tax increase represents Marxism; and dangerous claims that a life-saving vaccine is worse than a deadly virus. Those who believe these absurdities, as Voltaire said, are more likely to commit atrocities that could result in great suffering and anarchy.

Our country was founded on a better way of making decisions: Elections. Courts. The rule of law.

As we’ve done before, we call on cooler heads, on the left and right, to step forward and vigorously, repeatedly, condemn the disturbing and irresponsible talk of violent revolution. It should have no place here.

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