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WHAT HAS CHANGED?

 

A teenager carries a gun illegally in a city and state away from his home. He shoots two people dead. Now a discussion ensues that includes the media and public officials as to whether he should be considered a villain or a hero. 
 
What has changed? Something must have changed. Have we changed or have the rules changed? 
 
Are we so habituated to violence that the idea of a high schooler, a kid barely old enough to shave, walking down a street and shooting people indiscriminately - apparently including someone begging him to stop - is OK as long as we agree with his politics? Or have we decided that the Ten Commandments or, if you are not religious, The Golden Rule no longer apply in modern America? Is that the real answer, that our opinion of the use of violence depends on our politics and not our morality? Because if that's the case, then the folks who believe that America no longer values their lives have every right to walk down Main Street and start shooting too. So far, their violence, and the violence of those who have committed acts in their name, has been directed at property, not people. Is this new reality of teenage vigilante justice what we want, what we are willing to accept? 
 
To be clear, violence on either side of a political issue is abhorrent. It should be possible to support a cause while, at the same time, denouncing violence in the name of the cause. That's why taking a knee is different than smashing windows. And that's why we should honor the Constitutional right to do the former and punish to the full extent of the law those who do the latter.
 
Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette cross-pollinated the US Constitution and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man at about the same time, the late 18th Century. Less than a generation later, Napoleon crowned himself emperor of France and began rampaging through Europe. That's how quickly a society can lose moral and ethical focus. It's a lesson that America is too young to have learned. Let's hope that the lesson doesn't include continued and escalating violence.
 

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