Viewpoint: Violence is not the answer to political problems

We know it’s getting to be old (and frustrating) news by now, but with the government shutdown entering its third day, it looks like it may be here to stay awhile. And the situation seems to have driven some people to directing their frustrations into violent actions.

On Wednesday evening, a congressman reported being physically confronted by an angry individual outside the Capitol. He described the incident as minor and said it was likely the result of anger at the government shutdown. Earlier yesterday afternoon, police apprehended a woman who tried to run her car through barriers at the White House, leading to a car chase that eventually resulted in her death from police gunfire near the Capitol. The woman had a young child in the car at the time who was taken into custody.

The cases of violence to relieve frustrations toward politicians are hardly unheard of in history. Early this year and for much of last, street riots over political issues rocked many key cities in various countries across the world. The riots resulted in thousands of dollars of damage to public and private property, various degrees of injuries to those involved or simply standing by, and even more mixed emotions in the countries than before. When a government won’t listen to its people, it doesn’t leave many options for them to get their voices heard.

While many reserve their frustrations for private and local settings, others feel obligated to take them to a broader stage. These people believe the news coverage that often results will do more than signing petitions or lobbying representatives who likely won’t answer their phones during a shutdown anyway. Some also believe that the only way to get things done is to force them to get done, either through the use of terror tactics or by raising enough public outcry.

Random acts of violence, however, are certainly not the answer. A lone woman risking her life and the lives of others, including that of a young child, for reasons that can be implied but are not immediately clear, might do more harm than good to help a cause (if, indeed, she had one in mind). While these incidents certainly will jump to the headlines for several days, they often tend to draw attention from the base problems, or what others might refer to as the “real” problems.

Instead of focusing on the various ways the government is trying to fix (or hinder) the problems coming from the shutdown, many news stations are zoned in on a tragedy that could have been avoided. Comment threads on political blogs, news websites and the like often involve those with a high or low degree of knowledge bickering back and forth over pretty much nothing. We encourage this form of open dialogue, as it helps members of the public feel like they are being heard and putting in their two cents. However, we would discourage staging rampages on Capitol Hill — especially with small children in the car.

These things might happen. But that doesn’t mean they should. If this woman would have taken her political frustrations out on social media sites such as Facebook, feelings and emotions would run high, but no one would get physically hurt.