Sunday, January 09, 2011

Violence in the Past

Am reading Edmund Morris' "Colonel Roosevelt", the last of his trilogy on the life of the second greatest Republican President. (His first volume led to his writing the controversial biography of Reagan, "Dutch".) It's a Christmas present, which I'm enjoying.  TR was a man of many parts.  Morris does a good job on him.

Friday I finished the section on TR's run for President in 1912 on the ticket of the Progressive Party, against Wilson, Taft, and Debs.  As Morris observes, he was still the youngest of the four. John Schrank tried to assassinate him just before a campaign speech. Luckily, the bullet was slowed by passing through 100 pages of speech (the 50 page text was folded in half) and off his eyeglass case before entering his body.  TR knows it didn't enter the lung, so he carries on, speaking for 90 minutes before going to the hospital for treatment.  Quite a character, notably described as wanting to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.

Seems to me  the common threads in our history of assassinations and attempted assassinations (Jackson, Lincoln,Garfield, McKinley,TR, FDR, Truman, JFK, MLK, RFK, [Updated--Wallace ], Ford, Reagan, Clinton, Giffords are:
  • lack of rationality as compared to the attempted terrorist acts. Only Lincoln and Truman were a group effort and only those cases were "rational" in some sense. The loners like Hinckley, Ray, Oswald, and Schrank all were operating in another world.
  • the targets were all foci of great emotion, a lot of it negative. Even President Ford was not only president but controversial after his pardon of Nixon. 
So to me the bottom line is: crazy loners don't kill nobodies.

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