Saturday, March 12, 2016

Are we ripe for another Arthur Bremer?

He took a gun to a campaign rally, and when the time was right, he pointed it at his intended victim and fired.  As a result, the victim, presidential candidate George Wallace, spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

The date was May 15, 1972; the place was Laurel, Maryland; and the shooter's name was Arthur Bremer.  Bremer was 21 years old when he shot George Wallace.  He spent over 35 years in prison before being paroled in 2007.

Bremer began a diary in 1972 in which he wrote about his plans to assassinate either Richard Nixon or George Wallace.  Why?  He wanted "to do SOMETHING BOLD AND DRAMATIC, FORCEFUL & DYNAMIC, A STATEMENT of my manhood for the world to see."  Later, he would write, "I'm as important as the start of WWI.  I just need the little opening and a second of time."

In other words, he wanted to be important, not unlike Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold nearly 30 years later, or not unlike John Hinkley, the man who shot President Reagan.

I was eight years old in May of 1972, and I remember when this happened.  Since then, I've seen many times the video clip of George Wallace being shot, falling to the ground, with blood staining his shirt; his wife Cornelia throwing herself on him.

After last's night disturbance in Chicago which resulted in the cancellation of a Donald Trump campaign rally, I think we are ripe for another Arthur Bremer.

Who remembers 1972?  We were still in Vietnam, although we were beginning the process of leaving.  One month after George Wallace's shooting, five men would re-tape a door at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. and begin the downfall of a President.

Just four years earlier, 1968, Chicago's Democratic convention had been convulsed in violence that spilled out into the streets, with demonstrators chanting, "The whole world is watching!"  (The next year, Robert Lamm of the rock group Chicago would borrow that audio clip and use it on their debut album.)

Sound familiar?

I've previously referred to the Republican race as a food fight worthy of "Animal House".  These days, I watch the Republican debates for the entertainment value and the chance to throw virtual rotten food at the TV set.

But last night, in Chicago, things ceased being funny.

If, indeed, the whole world was watching in 1968 when demonstrators marched in the streets of Chicago, that's even more true now in 2016.  In 1968, there was no CNN, and Fox referred to the name of a movie-making company, not a news channel.  And people used the word "net" to refer to catching fish or butterflies, not as shorthand for "Internet".

Last night, in Chicago, I saw conditions that were ripe for the making of another Arthur Bremer.

When you have a dissatisfied electorate that has been battered by fears of terrorist attack and nearly eight years of economic malaise and uncertainty, combined with clashes between police and civilians, with the addition of mass shootings that are so common that people are numb to them . . . you have the makings of a situation that appeals to an Arthur Bremer.

Bremer was obviously mentally ill when he shot George Wallace.  But he also wanted to do something "bold and dynamic", and somewhere in that deranged mind of his, he decided that the way to do it was to shoot a presidential candidate.

In this age of YouTube and selfies and 24-hour news coverage which is fueled by violence and which magnifies every injustice, both real and perceived, what's to stop someone from pointing a gun at a presidential candidate for those very same reasons--to do something "bold and dynamic"?  Or, to think that THEY are the only ones that can put a stop to Donald Trump's increasingly shrill appeals to an angry electorate?  Or, to put a stop to the campaigns of Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Marco Rubio, or John Kasich for similar reasons?

Donald Trump is right about one thing:  people are angry.

Just as I was writing this, I saw a news blurb quoting President Obama as saying that the GOP provided the conditions for Donald Trump's success.  Opinions are going to vary as to who is ultimately responsible for the angry American electorate.  I will say, that although Donald Trump isn't personally responsible for this current wave of anger in the country, he's not doing very much to keep it in check.  In fact, he's doing everything he can to fuel the fire!

I fear that this angry American electorate is just the right soil to grow up another Arthur Bremer, who one day will point a gun at a candidate and fire.  I pray to God that that does not happen.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.



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