Political Action: Political assassinations pivotal in U.S. history
The cycle of violence never seems to end. Bhutto's father was overthrown as prime minister by a military coup d'etat. He was tried and executed for alleged crimes. The military dictator who took over after he overthrew Bhutto's father was himself later assassinated.Throughout America's history, four of our presidents have been assassinated and there have been at least six additional assassination attempts against our presidents, including five in the 20th century. These assassinations and attempted assassinations for the most part were committed against some of our greatest and most revered presidents.These violent acts did have an impact on our nation. To give one major example, if Abraham Lincoln had not been killed, the post-Civil War Reconstruction in the south might have been handled more effectively. Our other presidential martyrs were James Garfield, who was killed by a disappointed public office seeker in 1881, William McKinley, killed by an anarchist in 1901, and John Kennedy, assassinated in 1963 by a Communist.Among the attempts on the lives of our former presidents was an attack on Andrew Jackson by a mentally disturbed assailant in 1835 in the halls of the Capitol building. The attack failed when the pistol being used misfired. Earlier, in 1833, when Jackson was a passenger on a steamboat, he was assaulted by a former Navy officer who had been discharged from the Navy by Jackson. Fortunately Jackson was not injured.In 1912 there was an attempt on the life of Theodore Roosevelt when he was campaigning for the presidency in Milwaukee. He was shot by a deranged gunman. His wound was not serious and he insisted on giving a speech before receiving medical treatment.The next attempt on the life of a president was carried on against Theodore Roosevelt's distant cousin Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 when he was president-elect. Roosevelt had just completed giving a speech in Miami when an immigrant anarchist fired a pistol at him. He missed and instead shot and critically wounded Chicago Mayor Tony Cermak, who later died of the wound.There were later attempts against the lives of presidents Harry Truman, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Had any one of these attempts succeeded, it would have been a devastating occurrence and contributed to a destabilizing of our political system at the time. Among assassinations of important American political figures in 1968 we must also add U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy of New York and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.Returning to the Bhutto tragedy, she was for the most part allied with the West in the struggle against terrorism. She was a graduate of both Harvard and Oxford universities. It appears that in the near future, Muslim leaders who are friendly to the West may be potential targets for Islamic extremists as struggles between various religious groups seem to have increased in the Middle East.We have had religious conflicts before in Western civilization in terms of which religion would dominate the state. This type of situation occurred in England throughout most of the 17th century, when three Christian religious faiths competed for control of the English state: Catholicism, Episcopalianism and Puritan Calvinism. After almost a century of turmoil that included two revolutions, one civil war and two English kings overthrown, with one of those kings being executed, it ended in 1689 with the Episcopalian Church of England becoming the dominant force in the state.At the beginning of the 20th century, it was generally believed in the West that religious dominance in terms of dictating government policy was a thing of the past and the concept of separation of church and state would be respected. However, we have seen religious fundamentalism on the rise, and at times religious differences sharply dividing various groups within society. One such serious division occurred in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants from 1969 to 1999. That situation resulted in a type of civil war that lasted almost 30 years.We once had a theocracy in America, which included combining the church and state, that existed under the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s. Fortunately it ended by 1685.During most of the 20th century after 1945, we were engaged in a continuous struggle with international communism. Today, that has been replaced by a struggle with international terrorism fueled by religious zealots. Dealing with it will be a major challenge of the 21st century.
Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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