As I listen to accounts of the debate over health care and the actions of a few Tea Party members who apparently use the N word to describe several members of the Congressional Black Caucasus and referred to Representative Barney Frank as a “faggot,” I was reminded of an incident from our ante-bellum history, the caning of Senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina.
In 1855, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts in an oration attacked Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina over the question of slavery. Sumner who was power orator, in the course of his oration mocked Senator Butler’s appearance and speech, both of which were affected by a stroke he suffered. Several days after the speech, his nephew, Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina came to the Senate floor and caned Senator Sumner almost to death. This incident was representative of the hard feeling on both sides of the issue, hard feelings that would cause people to resort to violence because they believed their position was morally right.
Over the weekend individuals associated with the Tea Party, and apparently egged on by members of the Republican Party, resorted to attempts of intimidation, name calling, and generally uncivil behavior towards members of the Democratic party. I am not naïve enough to believe that people of both sides of the health care debate did not hold strong opinions. I also understand that for many opposed to health care reform this is an emotional event. But boys and girls we have a serious problem when individuals are so blinded by their emotion they resort to the use of violence and name calling in order to make a point. If this is how we are going to act, we have lost our way!
So why do I write about Preston Brooks, because it is only a matter of time before someone with the Tea Party resorts to violence by either attacking and injuring a member of the Federal Government, be it executive, legislative, or judicial, or even worse killing them. Unless we all, on both sides of the aisle, learn to curb our emotions, temper our remarks, and act in a civil manner towards each other I fear for our union.
History does not repeat itself, but history can serve as a guide to what can happen. Wake up America and look and think about what you are doing; or are we so divided that no one cares about the consequences of their actions.