Opinion | Hamilton: Does de Tocqueville’s America still exist?
In the mid-1830s, during his tour of the nascent United States, Alexis Charles Henri Clérel, Viscount de Tocqueville, was impressed by the willingness of Americans to form volunteer organizations to solve problems. And especially problems that arise because someone or some group was being treated unfairly.
Mais oui, Monsieur de Tocqueville, we rustic Americans have proven we can endure almost any amount of hardship. But unfairness is something that we cannot abide.
Recently, during the hearings by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, we witnessed this American penchant for fairness played out. Someone, who was apparently convinced in her mind that something had happened to her 36 years ago at a teenage drinking party, was allowed to state her case.
That she could not recall the date, the place, how she arrived at the party or how she got home and that the four people she named to corroborate her story could not do so is of zero importance. What is important is that a committee of the U.S. Senate was so committed to the concept of fairness that she was not only allowed to appear but, in advance, the committee even offered to send staff to wherever she was to hear her story, either in private or in public. The choice was hers to make. As the record shows, she chose to appear in public where she was able to say that, at least in her mind, something traumatic had happened to her at a teenage drinking party 36 years ago.
Unfortunately, granting a national forum to a witness with an unsubstantiated story was not enough for those who had come to protest the confirmation of a presidential nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Given the danger-laden, tense atmosphere, the public could have been excluded, a priori, from the hearing. But the public was not.
The protesters were allowed to shout and scream long enough to make the evening TV news and then escorted out so the business of the committee could proceed. De Tocqueville, the author of Democracy in America, would have been proud.
But what de Tocqueville might not understand is how the Political Correctness Movement (the avoidance of speech that might offend someone) and the anti-Hate Speech Movement have, somehow, been replaced by vile, hateful speech and the violence being exhibited by the American Left.
Wait. Hold the phone. Leftists are supposed to be mild-mannered, soft-spoken intellectuals who profess to prevail based on the strength and logic of their arguments. What are they doing in public places harassing other citizens who are just trying to enjoy a peaceful meal or engage in other quiet pursuits? What does that tell us about the merit of their worldview? Is their worldview so devoid of merit that hate speech and violence are their only recourse? If that is the case, then the American Left might want to revisit its idealistic origins and figure out how to better state its premises.
Beginning with Teddy Roosevelt, we have seen there is place in American politics for persuasively presented progressive ideas. But hate speech and violence serve no one well. The American Left would be well-advised to return to civilization.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. Hamilton is the author of “The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill.”
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