Summary: Violence is as American as apple pie, part of most social movements since the Founding (used for, against, or both). Might it burst forth again? If so, by whom? The Left feels strongly about climate change, but looks like a spent force — capable of staging street parties but not violence. Political energy, for good or ill, lives in America more strongly on the Right (stoked by our plutocrats, for their advantage). They’re buying guns. Might they use them? This is another post in a series considering possible futures for America unlike those painted in the mainstream media.
- Introduction: political violence in our future?
- Our trust in our ourselves: failing
- Our trust in our elected representatives: failing
- Our confidence in the military: rising
- Our history of violence
- Other posts in this series about the Right in America
- For More Information
(1) Introduction: is there political violence in our future?
Let’s start with the harsh observations from yesterday’s post:
- Gun sales are increasing (see here for a rough indicator of recent growth).
- The people with guns are largely conservatives, often right-wing extremists.
- Many of them see a nation of “real Americans” and others.
- For decades right-wing media increasingly have been saturated with claims that our freedoms are in danger from the coming wave of Sharia-immigrants-communism-anarchy (see these posts).
- Many believe that citizens using guns are the ultimate defense of liberty from threats domestic as well as foreign.
- Homeland Security is concerned: see their Assessment of “Rightwing Extremism“, April 2009.
Might the time come when they use their guns on us? Let’s consider our circumstances, and the many warning signs. Imagine if the trends shown below continue, and if America’s current economic stress continues — or increases. What might happen on such a future path?
(2) Our trust in our elected representatives is falling
Our trust in our fellow Americans is a distinguishing factor between developed nations and failed States. Alienation is a bad sign, and probably a precondition for violence. From Gallup, 27 September 2013. Look at the line for Republicans.
(3) Our trust in our elected representatives is failing
Another distinguishing factor between well-run States and failed States. Lack of confidence in our democratic institutions is another precondition (but of course not sufficient by itself) for violence. From Gallup, 27 September 2013. Look at the line for Republicans.
(4) But we have increased confidence in the military
A classic warning sign: falling confidence in our fellow citizens and political institutions — but growing confidence in the military. From Gallup’s 2013 Confidence in Institutions survey. They do not show the data by party, but the gap between the parties is probably large — and growing.
(5) America’s History of violence
Before expecting nothing but choruses of “Kumbaya” in our future, look at our past. We have been a violent people since the Founding. Starting in the second year of Washington’s first term, the Whiskey Rebellion played a pivotal role in defining the powers of the Federal government (see Wikipedia). Since then violence has shaped a large number of our political movements, used either by activists or in opposition by powerful interest groups and the government. Perhaps we have changed into a peaceful people (albeit with the largest military-police budget on Earth).
(a) Violence to Afro-Americans, from the Founding until the massive race starting in the mid-1960s. See this list at Wikipedia.
(b) Violence to immigrants and Native Americans: see this list at Wikipedia.
(c) Political violence by the anarchists (see section #4 of this post).
(d) Violence to unions: see this series by Erik Loomis (Asst Prof of History, U RI). The length of the list shows the intensity of the struggle to organize American workers for decent pay and conditions. That most of us enjoy these things now is the result of their effort, The toll these people paid is as much a cost of building America as that paid by members of our armed forces.
- July 3, 1835: Paterson Textile Strike of 1835
- June 21, 1877: Molly Maguires executed in Pennsylvania
- July 14, 1877: The Great Railroad Strike
- September 2, 1885: Rock Springs Massacre
- May 4, 1886: Haymarket Riot
- December 11, 1886: Creation of the Colored Farmers Alliance
- November 22, 1887: Thibodaux Massacre
- July 6, 1892: The Homestead Strike
- July 11, 1892: Miners outside of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho blow up the Frisco Mill
- February 7, 1894: Cripple Creek gold miners strike
- April 30, 1894: Coxey’s Army
- June 26, 1894: Pullman Strike
- May 12, 1902: Anthracite coal miners strike in Pennsylvania begins, TR mediates
- December 30, 1905: Murder of former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg
- November 22, 1909: Uprising of the 20,000
- March 25, 1911: Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
- February 24, 1912: Beating of the women and children at Lawrence, MA
- June 7, 1913: Paterson Silk Pageant. Addendum here.
- August 3, 1913: Wheatland Riot
- April 20, 1914: Ludlow Massacre
- November 19, 1915: Joe Hill executed in Utah
- November 5, 1916: The Everett Massacre
- July 12, 1917: The Bisbee Deportation
- August 1, 1917: Frank Little lynched in Butte
- February 6, 1919: The Seattle General Strike
- November 11, 1919: The Centralia Massacre
- May 19, 1920: Matewan Massacre
- August 25, 1921: Battle of Blair Mountain
- June 11, 1925: Soldiers in Nova Scotia kill a striking coal miner
- August 23, 1927: Execution of Sacco and Vanzetti
- March 7, 1932: River Rouge march and repression
- May 9, 1934: Longshoremen strike begins in San Francisco
- May 16, 1934: Minneapolis Teamsters Strike
- February 11, 1937: The Flint Sit-Down Strike ends
- May 26, 1937: Battle of the Overpass
- May 30, 1937: Memorial Day Massacre in Chicago
- June 6, 1943: Detroit Hate Strike
- July 17, 1944: Port Chicago explosion
- December 2, 1946: The Oakland General Strike
- January 5, 1970: Murder of UMWA reformer Jock Yablonski
- September 17, 1989: The Pittston Strike
(6) Other posts in this series about the Right in America
- The key to modern American politics: the Right-Wing Id Unzipped, 15 February 2012
- A harsh clear look at the history of the Republican Party, 22 September 2013
- Conservatives show us their thinking, not well glued to reality, 30 September 2013
- Most of what Democrats say is wrong about the Republicans’ recent actions in Congress, 1 October 2013
(7) For More Information
Giving you something to worry about — look at some of the political trends in America:
- Is the US government illegitimate? If so, does that justify violent revolution?, 10 April 2010
- America is the new Rome. Late Republican Rome (not the best of times), 13 October 2011
- What will replace the Constitution in Americans’ hearts? Let’s check for Fascism., 29 March 2012
- A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, 14 May 2012
- A look at the future of the Republic: we will choose leaders that we trust, not the ones we need (part 2), 15 May 2012
- Undercutting people’s trust in the Republic: another step to destroying the Republic, 27 August 2012
- Under the cloak of liberalism America slides to Fascism, 20 October 2012
- Gallup sounds an alarm, again, about our lack of confidence in ourselves, 25 July 2013