Capacity for Violence

(Potpourri of Gloom)


John Wright


As more democratic presidential candidates come out of the woodwork hoping to unseat President Bush, the negative articles about Bush and his presidency are on the increase. This is to be expected, for politics is anything but fair-minded. It is quite typical for opponents on both sides to belittle and accuse each other of weaknesses ranging from stupidity to immorality. What I do not recall seeing in past presidential elections is the rancor directed towards republicans in powerful positions, in which they are boldly accused of crimes against our political system. Put simply, Bush, his handler(Karl Rove), some of his cabinet, Cheney and the "Heritage Foundation" are now being accused of literally trying to change the USA in ways that could only be considered constitutional violations, and therefore crimes. I await hearing the accusers use the word tyranny and I suspect it will not be very long before that happens.

There is a very strong polarization developing that cannot have good results in the next year and possibly beyond next year. Our citizens will be called upon to take sides in a much stronger than normal fashion. This is likely to lead to frequent and significant violence, and it has the potential to tear us apart into warring factions. Frankly, I donít care for the moment who is right or wrong on any given accusation, but I do care about major rebellion and people getting hurt or killed. If you think that unlikely in the USA please note that the Civil War had brothers fighting on different sides. If the stakes appear high enough we will have violence.

One of the main problems I see today is that Bushís accusers are not lightweight in the mental department or in their non-political jobs. Republicans have managed to infuriate some of our important educators and well educated writers, and that is a very huge mistake, for those individuals will fall on the sword rather than compromise principles when the stakes as they perceive them are high enough. It is that deep and frightening reality that has me concerned, for educators and millions of others who are dead set against republican initiatives will be heard. The snowball and polarization effects are a foregone conclusion. One question is, will they succeed? The other is, at what cost?

In one sense history is repeating, for it was typical in the past to have educators, writers and liberal Jewish people in law side with democrats against conservative republicans. That is what put FDR and numerous others into office, for the anti-republican block was quite vocal and they captured the votes of people who were either poor to begin with or who had become poor due to job loss. I donít have a clue how that effort will stack up against anti-terrorist patriotism in the coming elections, but it will be interesting for once to watch the changes in the polls as the election year proceeds.

I am not advocating muzzling anyone. I simply see trouble brewing of an intensity and duration that promises major changes in the future of the USA, regardless of which side wins. Violent events during the election year will support those who favor John Ashcroftís suppression tactics, yet silence will not permit democrats to gain office. But enough of my optimism. Now letís take the wraps off my paranoia and take a good look at what might happen Ö

Let me throw out some words and potential events for us to chew on Ö assassinations, marshal law, terrorism from outside the USA, National Guard and regular US Army troops present and active in large population centers, a major stock market fall, eleventh hour emergency laws to quell rebellion followed by even more violent rebellion as US troops kill violent US citizen demonstrators in multiple areas, a controlled news media, intentional fuel rationing, massive unemployment, pograms to round up and imprison dissidents and potential dissidents, and last but not least, attacks on USA interests abroad.

Yuck! What a list! I have to be nuts to think those things will happen. Or do I? Letís take them one at a time and see if they make sense or are silly. Then, letís see what each of us should do, if anything, to prepare.

We havenít lost a presidential candidate to assassination since Robert F. Kennedy, though a few republican presidents since the early 1960ís have been wounded or nearly wounded by potential assassins, so we are primed for assassination attempts as proven by our last fifty years of results. And of course most of you will realize that this November is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Point: If the stakes are deemed to be high enough either Bush or a democratic candidate will be assassinated. I would expect a terrorist attack on President Bush and, well, I donít even want to think about those who would be sent to kill a democratic candidate, or who would hire them. Whatever, I consider an assassination attempt a very high probability event.

Terrorism of any type imported into the USA will guarantee that Bush will be re-elected provided the event is timely, i.e., within one or two months of the election. If the timing is off, terrorism against USA citizens here or abroad will still strongly promote re-election. So, what do you think the odds are of a successful but contained terrorist attack within or outside the USA? Pretty high I would guess. Then there is the possible aftermath of a successful assassination to consider. Will Cheney be elected if Bush is assassinated? I think so for the terrorism card will win the hand for the republicans if there is any assassination.

Republicans can aid their cause for re-election if the economy recovers, and that is likely to happen due to various causes. I clearly recall my youngest son telling me in September 2000 that we would have a serious recession if Bush was elected and that it would magically end during 2004. His obvious point was that all of these things are planned and controlled, such that re-election of the side that provoked the recession was guaranteed if they were perceived as heroes in recovering the economy in 2004. It is the role of the democrats to debunk the process and show it for what it is/was, so as to gain the anger vote of those hurt most by the recession. If the democrats are successful there will be violence. This is a medium probability outcome as it is not yet clear that any democratic candidate has hit a nerve re the impact of the economy on the little people. So far we see nothing from the little people.

Regardless of your politics there are a couple realities this time around that almost shout concern by their utter silence. Note that we have no likely female candidates of any sort for high office. Note that Blacks of either gender are virtually unheard. Both of these realities speak to a subliminal recognition that this fight is not perceived as any kind of a winning circumstance for anyone with a gender or anti-war or racial equality objective. Is it that these initiatives are paling in importance? Did we solve all gender, war and racial problems? No, the ominous silence comes from the reality of being considered irrelevant in the face of international violence and a terrible economy. Only a nutcase would push an expensive liberal agenda at this time, when more than anything else we need security and jobs with respectable pay, not to mention a balanced budget. We will, however, see many liberals beat up the president for his wasting of money re Iraq.

Criminal accusations directed at republicans will generate serious anger on both sides. Accusations of jobs lost intentionally by presidential collusion with corporations, directly or indirectly, will foment violence on the part of previous and currently at risk factory workers. White-collar workers will hear and pay attention to the accusations from our educators and writers. They, like the educators, comprise a powerful force when sufficiently irritated, for some of them have excellent minds and you only have to get their attention to activate them. These individuals may not personally participate in violence but they are quite capable of passive support and active hiding of perpetrators Ö sort of like the old Underground Railroad.

Among other criminal accusations, Bush and his oil cronies will be accused of price fixing. That is, the cost of a barrel of oil is absurd in the aftermath of the Iraq war. As I recall, no significant damage was done to Iraqi oil facilities, so the democrats will dance on Bushís head for artificially elevating oil prices and failing to cut them drastically via oil production from Iraq. The entire cost of the war could be covered by Iraqi oil, yet no one seems to think that appropriate. I do, and I believe millions of other USA citizens are tired of hearing lies about our low inflation, when in fact we have serious situational inflation. Perhaps Bush will introduce cheap Iraqi oil at the appropriate time to bring OPEC to its knees and make himself look good to voters. If not, look out, for anger over oil prices will be fanned into flames by Bushís detractors.

Most Americans will opt for security when the chips are down. That means marshal law will be welcomed after a few killings during demonstrations. Unfortunately, violent demonstrations may continue to occur and the odds of more people dying increase as troops are agitated by demonstrators. It doesnít take more than a few killings to incite a series of riots in numerous cities, regardless of the presence of troops. Remember Watts and Kent State and you will see what I mean. Their aftermath was riots and violent demonstrations in many cities. This more than anything else is where we have lethal risk of tearing our country apart. Perhaps you havenít considered that terrorists posing as citizens can kill a few soldiers and really get the ball rolling. As to probability, we havenít heard from Bin Laden and company for a long time and an election year will provide many opportunities to wreak havoc.

I donít know that we have sufficient frustration internally for violent demonstrations to occur without strong stimulus, so the probability of that happening is low unless democrats get the attention of economically damaged little people via criminal accusations or unless external terrorists provide the stimulus at otherwise peaceful demonstrations. The jury is out.

What do you think might happen to the stock market during periods of major insurrections? Well, it wonít go up. Stock market behavior is seldom seen as a direct influence on peopleís capacity for violence, but given other triggers there are a lot of fairly well off people who will become enraged at whoever they believe responsible for their personal stock market disaster. These people number in the millions, and once they decide to become active we may have real problems of the intelligent supporting the violent variety. And lest we forget, a lot of low-income jobs will be lost if there is a market crash, so that could only add to the fires of discontent. I suspect this is a low probability event except if terrorist activities or an assassination occur within our borders.

Think next about a controlled news media. If you see or are otherwise aware of major violence in your city or nearby, and the media pays it scant attention, what is the message? What might happen to freedom of speech as applied to the Internet? Will people be permitted to use the Internet unimpeded as a forum for discontent? I think not. Microsoft has announced the closing of chat rooms outside the USA, Canada and Japan, presumably to protect children from sexual predators (give me a break!). That closing can be extended as perceived necessary next year to maintain the peace. Those doing the perceiving work in the Washington, DC area. I doubt we will see obvious control unless there is something perceived by the republicans as a mounting danger to their re-election campaign.

Telephones serve to tie people and communities together when other means fail. Will a lame media and a censored Internet stop most of us from hearing the worst via telephone? Of course, letís remember that publications can be produced and be widely disseminated via fax unless phone service is also curtailed. Just imagine the possibilities if that were to happen, both personally and economically. The telephone scenario is of very low probability but I canít say the same about the news media or the Internet.

Fuel rationing could be enforced to keep people at home where they "belong." The rationing would have nothing whatsoever to do with oil shortages. Public transportation would be used heavily for commuters; in fact it would be overwhelmed. Secondary unemployment would result and unemployment roles would swell beyond anything the federal government could handle short of simply printing and giving away dollars. Fuel rationing is something that would occur only in extreme conditions of civil disobedience, so the likelihood of rationing, especially in consideration of the possible consequences of that action, is of extremely low probability.

Dissidents of all types will be rounded up and imprisoned Ö but not in our currently overcrowded prisons. Gee, I always like to go camping, so guess where our dissidents will live? Just remember Japanese internment during WWII and you can imagine what our "camps" will be like. I wouldnít want to be there. For this problem to be significant requires thousands of people at a minimum to be arrested in each of the major cities, so again, the probability is low.

Finally, the USA does not exist in a vacuum. What happens here impacts the rest of the world in a variety of ways. Simply note two things Ö American interests abroad will be at high risk if our government is too busy containing violence here, and second, our enemies from abroad will not sit idle there or here if our attention and ability to respond are not available. Internal problems can overwhelm our capacity to maintain peace abroad, especially if problems arise in multiple places. For example, consider a few Palestinians bringing nuclear weapon components into Israel and assembling and then detonating the weapon. Is that impossible, improbable or something that has long been planned? I suppose a nuclear event is most improbable, but conventional explosives are not.

Whew! What a terrible forecast! If even a few of the above events occur we will be in trouble. I hope none of them occur. Then I think again about the extreme polarization I am seeing now, and the expected upping of the ante, and I wonder about downstream effects in the next year. How about I simply say that I am concerned for all of us?

I hope my musings are irrational and/or overstated but suppose they are not? What can people do singly and as groups to protect against possible major problems?

First, have your supply of emergency money in your possession and well hidden, and that means cash or the equivalent to live for three or more months. Second, do not pretend you and your family members are physically safe. That means be ready for civil disturbance by whatever means make sense to you. Third, a backup food supply can have a smoothing effect during dangerous times in your community. Fourth, do not travel unless critically necessary, as you are most vulnerable to unknown conditions when you are away from your home or your community. You simply donít have any valid information to guide you outside your local domain. Fifth, try not to engage other people in heated discussions of any topic, for normally nice people may surprise you and wreak unexpected havoc (Cripe, I sound like a hybrid of Ridge and Ashcroft Ö have they gotten to me?). Sixth, do not directly violate laws or challenge police or military personnel, for patience and good manners will not exist and you will have the proverbial shit kicked out of you regardless of your age, race or gender. No, the larger community will not think of you as a victim, a.k.a. Rodney King, nor will the courts.

Work at your job with consideration and patience at all times. Be productive to the best of your ability. Put personal safety first in all that you do. Most of all donít let anyone rile you. You are in control until you give it up to someone else. Try to be extra alert when you are in public places, for typical behaviors of those around you may change in a heartbeat.

You might also consider yourself at risk if you are outspoken in the wrong environment. Recently I drove to Washington, DC and I was annoyed by all the overhead signs along I95 asking people to call 1-800-???-TIPS to report suspicious activities. Yes, if you offend the wrong idiot the police are likely to show up at your door because of stupid programs like TIPS (Heil!). This is a high probability item.

You may think I am recommending an ostrich approach. I suggest you take a good look at your strengths, tools and societal privileges along with your weaknesses before doing anything that can have irreversible results. It is altogether too easy to get caught up in the moment instead of keeping a cool head and a personal focus on where you need to be a year or more into the future.

That we may have temporary chaos in numerous places is bad enough. Donít be the victim of your own ignorance combined with unfortunate circumstance. Humans have always had a notable capacity for violence. You are human. Keep it in check and expect less than the best from those around you.

Now lets summarize. For those of you who are talented at reading between the lines, you already know that this article says that Bush is going to be re-elected regardless of what democratic candidates do. The only wild cards are an assassination or other unlikely events like mass demonstrations. Our population lacks the intelligence, as a whole, first to understand the real issues (e.g. Constitutional Crisis) or to vote based on who actually has been screwing them.

Lest I forget, please do vote. Let your conscience be your guide. And donít be gloomy (I reserve that right for me alone!). Perhaps by 2008 we will have a clearer view of what our wealthy have done to us, and respond accordingly.