Local Commentary

Editorial: An Attack On Democracy

It is horribly poignant that less than a day after Virginians participated in yet another important election that a violent attack on our democracy occurred in Alexandria yesterday morning.

The attack on members of the U.S. Congress and their staff was an attack on every American and every lover of democracy everywhere on the planet.

Low voter turnouts like those in Tuesday’s Virginia primaries notwithstanding, America’s political system works to the benefit of all lives, past, present and future, and our human destiny as a factor in this grand universe. Of course, it can stand improvement, and almost always the lack of a better functioning system can be placed at the feet of individual people who fall short in all variety of ways.

But the system itself, grounded as it is in the U.S. Constitution’s sheer genius, is the best ordering of humankind’s affairs in the history of the world, bar none.

So it is cause for deep sorrow any time something even remotely as mad and irrational as yesterday’s senseless attack mindlessly assails the core constituents of this democracy.

Needless to say, we wish the best for the swift and full recovery of all the shooting victims, and have the greatest respect and admiration for the brave law enforcement officers at the scene who without a doubt prevented a much worse outcome.

Our democracy is always under attack from quarters who seek to impose their will on others without regard for the well-being of their victims. Its source is the root mindset of the bully, the thug, the despot, the tyrant, the serial and mass murderers, the raging abusers of those less or unable to fend for themselves, whether in the public square or in the bedroom.

Always self-justifying, the enemies of our system delude themselves into thinking they are justified in their actions, whether it’s because they feel they’ve been unfairly wronged or that their targets somehow deserve the abuse they inflict. They’re never willing to subordinate their rage and violence to the powers of reason, of discourse, and of the best possible outcome rendered in a public exchange.

For those things in our society that cry out for change and reform, the means exist, now more than ever (given the ubiquitous access to public discourse through the Internet and social media), to bring them to pass. This democratic society requires reform, but not revolution into something different — except in the sense that Thomas Jefferson called every democratic election an opportunity for “revolution.”

“Reform” is too often considered a dirty word by people on the political fringes who assail the middle. But it has brought America a long way, and it is true there are a lot of improvements still required. But again, reform comes best when the minds and souls of the practitioners of our democracy — that is, every one of us — are engaged to honestly and humbly seek the good.