Assassinations seem to be on the rise

By Alan S. Chartock | July 15, 2022


Assassination is a fearful word. Our world is filled with so much hatred and anger that it’s not a giant leap for an unbalanced person to reach for murder as their brand of politics. If you disagree with the politics of an individual and you are not in your right mind, killing that person might actually make sense to you. It really doesn’t matter that your actions will pretty much end your own life as you know it.

The assassination of a country’s leader can have a profound effect on virtually everything within the scope of that political subdivision. The two most significant assassinations in this country, to be sure, were those of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. If asked to prioritize, the death of Lincoln would probably come first because of the Civil War. That murder is fascinating for many reasons, not the least of which is that Booth, like so many other assassins, thought that he could get away with his crime.

Booth was clearly responsible for Lincoln’s death. People saw him do it. In the case of Kennedy, however, there has been seemingly endless debate about who committed that terrible deed. I’ve always believed that the great debate came about because the event was so cataclysmic, there had to be more to it than Oswald and Ruby. This was not just one deranged guy with a gun. The JFK assassination has always been perplexing. We have heard theories that the Mafia and a particular union did it. I had a union leader tell me that they killed JFK and that they would kill his brother. Maybe, but we’ll probably never know for sure.

As for Booth, he may have believed that he would be remembered by history as a hero but even in the Southern United States, that hasn’t really happened. Nevertheless, the vitriol of that conflict between states is still very much alive today and a gun in the hands of a sick person could still create political and emotional chaos and harm.

We know assassinations seem to be on the rise across the world. It doesn’t much matter what your political office is. We now have to offer protection to our public officials, industrialists and maybe even journalists. Since there is no death penalty, there will surely be misguided murderers who might think that they can assassinate with impunity. Not only are assassinations on the rise around the world, but the whole level of civil discourse has sunk to a new low. Think about how we speak to one another. How many times have you heard someone say that they could “…just kill someone?” or “so-and-so is the enemy of the people.”

Hopefully, we can find the resources to protect all the people who are potential targets. Well, maybe, but protecting our politicians and the upper strata of our society doesn’t help the guy on his way to the supermarket or the woman heading to the subway, only to be shot by some random killer.

Of course, there are far too many guns and far too many people who are mentally ill. But when you think about it, this is exactly the kind of scenario that could eventually lead to the kind of dictatorship where a so-called strong leader imposes his or her will on an “out of control” society. Do you have any doubt that Donald Trump would have done exactly that if he had acceded to power? I don’t.

Every time the news reports an assassination, you had better believe that the information burrows into someone’s brain. Nonetheless, it’s news and you have to report it, as awful as it is.

Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected]