16 June 2016
Assassination in Britain first?
For the first time in 26 years, since the troubles with the Irish, a member of the British Parliament has been assassinated. Jo Cox of the Labour party was shot and stabbed at what they call a "constituent surgery" by a man who reportedly yelled "Britain First!" during the attack. This connects the murder tentatively with the country's contentious campaign over the "Brexit," a referendum on the U.K.'s withdrawal from the European Union, and with the refugee question, as Cox was an advocate of intervention in Syria and the settlement of Syrian war victims in Britain. Awful as any such story is on its own terms, I couldn't help wondering about it happening in Britain. After all, the way many Americans think about Donald Trump's constituents -- angry, intolerant, tribalistic, imminently violent -- you might have expected something like this to have happened here. It has not. In fact, the last time a U.S. congressman was murdered was at Jonestown, back in 1978, while the shooter who wounded Rep. Giffords during the Tucson amoklauf was just about a pure nut with an ideology entirely his own. This is one of the reasons why I can't take the panic over Trump too seriously. His supporters may be morons, but not murderously so. Assassination has fallen far out of fashion in the U.S. Not event the Islamists try it, as far as we can tell. In one respect that's no great reflection on us, since you can just as easily say that killing one person, no matter how powerful, just doesn't do it for the killers among us anymore. But it remains a valid observation that, despite the seemingly bottomless hate expressed for politicians across the American spectrum, we've gone a fairly long time without an obviously politically motivated attack on American politicians. For all that the Trump movement seems new and scary, they haven't changed that stat, and for all that Americans as a whole are supposed to shoot first and think later, here's an assassination in Britain, presumably one of the more civilized countries, and most of us across the Atlantic are still asking, "What was that guy angry about?"