Our History of Polite Political Dissent

In 1832 in a political attack on President Jackson’s policies, Congressman William Stanbery of Ohio made allegations against Sam Houston, a native Virginian, former congressman from Tennessee, and Jackson supporter who was in Washington to lobby for better treatment of the Cherokee. Incensed, Houston confronted Stanbery outside his boardinghouse and the argument led to Houston beating him with a hickory cane. Stanbery did draw his pistol and shot Houston in the chest, but the pistol misfired. Stanbery pressed assault charges, but Houston, defended by his lawyer, Francis Scott Key, got off with a light reprimand. Stanbery sued Houston in civil court and won. Houston fled to Mexican Texas rather than pay the $500 fine. His story gets far more interesting from that point.

But my point in rehashing this history is that through the Whiskey Rebellion, the Haymarket Riots, the Civil Rights protests with the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and the anti-war demonstrations of the 1970’s, the people of the United States, both collectively and individually, have never been calm and collected when it came to expressing political opinion. Why are folks so surprised about the violence and death threats over the health care issue?

It also doesn’t seem to matter that the angriest folks really don’t know anything factual about the plans being discussed in Congress. Since we are far from a final plan, there really aren’t any facts as such. That’s never been a problem though. Hell, we’re angry and we have the right of free speech. No one qualified that right by saying we have to make sense. So down with the death panels and euthanasia squads. Down with the cloning and the flying rabbits and the turning of cows into monkeys. Down with all our constructed straw dogs. Damn straight! Despite what Nancy Pelosi says, dissent is the purest kind of Americanism. And that was true for the past eight years too.

Oh, yeah, Sam Houston… Like Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the “rest of the story…”
Sam got into politics down in Mexico and supported independence for Texas. When that was achieved he became President of the Republic of Texas, US Senator from the newly annexed state of Texas, and eventually Governor of Texas. He left office because he refused to pledge loyalty to the Confederacy, being a Unionist at heart. Sam was a damn fine patriot.

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Denise Traicoff

Thanks so much for the reminder. Would be great for everyone to calm down, take a breath and discuss disagreements rationally, but your history lesson reminds us that that’s not how our democracy works. At least people care–I have always thought democracy works better when apathy is not permissable. Of course the other key ingredient is education: being actually informed on the issue would be quite helpful.
What is disquieting, and I think a little ironic, is the inclusion of weapons in the current spirited healthcare demonstrations. Whatever shall we do with the first healthcare ‘debater’ who is injured but who has inadequate health insurance?