Eye On Illinois: Rage is nothing new, and there aren’t easy answers – Northwest Herald

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It should go without saying, but death threats are not acceptable means of communicating with elected officials.

That sentiment is as true this week – in light of the arrest of a Chicago man accused of leaving a voicemail threatening to “mutilate and kill” state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia – as it was when I wrote it in February after state Rep. Deb Conroy, D-Villa Park, shared a litany of abuse her office received related to proposed legislation.

Don’t read that paragraph as an attempt to “both sides” an issue. We’re not talking about political differences, but the distinction between civil behavior and criminal conduct.

Also from that February column: “The rhetoric, if that’s even a fair term, is unfortunately not surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to politics in recent years. Social media comment threads are a particularly special sort of dumpster fire, but there is a line between expressing anger and making direct contact to personally pledge harm.”

Are people collectively angrier than those from prior generations? Are they more comfortable expressing emotions? Or do we just have better access to the types of thoughts folks used to keep inside? As someone who’s encountered feedback from readers since Clinton was president, rage is nothing new.

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

This problem isn’t exclusive to Illinois. There are so many nationwide arrests for threatening language a running catalog is impractical. That’s before discussing the actual violence, which happens frequently enough I forgot a few examples cited in an August Brookings Institution essay titled “We need to take political violence seriously” (tinyurl.com/BrookingsViolence).

One that slipped my mind: In late July, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican running for governor of New York, was speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars post when a man jumped on the stage and lunged, but was wrestled to the ground before actually stabbing his target.

Should we be thankful neither Bailey nor Gov. JB Pritzker has had to physically ward off an attacker? Would we be surprised if it did happen here?

Political violence is problematic. Candidates and commentators who convince followers an opponent or movement is inherently dangerous invite aggressive responses by, without restraint, demanding acolytes reject oppression. Many double down by intertwining that message with religious fervor.

Yet limiting the discussion to politics overlooks the many people who become violently angry about a great deal of matters having nothing to do with marginal tax rates or drainage easements. Politicians can (and should!) denounce violence or hate speech among followers, but that doesn’t deliver help to troubled individuals.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any easy answers or systemic solutions. Anger is as old as humanity itself. We have to want to heal and help.

What’s your contribution?

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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November 5, 2022 at 05:52AM

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