In law, it’s long been established that the defense of property is not worth a human life. This notion has been twisted over the past year from valuing the sanctity of human life to justifying the destruction of property. It’s not big deal. It’s not “violence.” It’s just stuff. So what? The “so what” is that its destruction is being used to coerce political decision making.
Commissioner Dan Ryan said Wednesday that his home has been vandalized seven times since late October, when the North Portland dwelling he shares with his fiance was first targeted by protesters who wanted him to support cutting millions of dollars from the city’s police budget.
No, it’s not as bad as the insurrection of storming the Capitol, and it’s nearly impossible to avert one’s eyes from the most outrageous and significant car wreck in modern political history. And no, it’s not as if terrorists kidnapped a loved one and held him hostage, only to be released minus the cut-off ear for emphasis, upon a vote as the terrorists demand. It’s just vandalism, which is a nice way of saying that “mostly peaceful” protesters have gone to an elected Portland public officials home and committed acts of destruction. Seven times. Because they want to influence his official decision-making.
Should we be parsing the vandalism for the extent of destruction? The cost of repairs? Should we contrast it with the passion of that group of “reformers” who believe their cause so just, so important, that they get to engage in acts of destruction to force an elected official to bend to their will?
Anywhere else in the universe, these criminal acts of destruction might be seen as terrorism, the use of violence to influence politics. But this is Portlandia, and while Dan Ryan’s recalcitrance to sufficiently defund police is seen as right-wing heresy. Elsewhere, Ryan would likely be deemed far too radically progressive to be elected dog catcher.
“I ask those who seek my attention on city business to schedule time with me and my team. We welcome scheduled meetings, during working hours, to hear inclusive perspectives on the complex challenges facing our city,” he said. “Acts of vandalism to my home, in the veil of darkness, will not allow me to actively and compassionately listen to you.”
Perhaps if they just burned his house to the ground, he would offer to buy them lunch? Then again, at least no one punched Ryan, as they did the newly re-elected mayor, Ted Wheeler.
Last week, a group of left-wing activists raucously accosted Mayor Ted Wheeler while he was dining in Northwest Portland. A member of the group started swatting at Wheeler and made physical contact with him, according to the mayor’s spokesman Jim Middaugh.
Demonstrators demanding Wheeler’s resignation during the height of Portland’s 2020 racial justice protests smashed windows and set fires inside his condo building, prompting the mayor to move.
But this isn’t the same as the Trump Insurrection, you say. False equivalence, and why are you bringing up these petty slights when there are big issues, huge issues, at stake? Plus, these are reformers, fighting for justice, as opposed to crazies fighting for lies propagated by the biggest loser. I bring this up not because these independent acts are either comparable or equivalents, but in anticipation of the complaints of the unduly passionate.
How can you turn away from the MAGA insurrection to complain about, even mention, this trivial fight for justice and morality?
How can you ignore that the left can engage in violence and destruction with impunity while calling the right’s effort to defend what it believes to be the ruin of a nation?
To these complaints, the response is clear. Engaging in violence and destruction for political ends is wrong. It’s wrong wherever it happens and whoever does it. It’s wrong if you believe in the cause or believe the cause is grounded in lies. And neither justifies, causes or excuses the other.
The Constitution protects our right of association, and to petition government for the redress of grievances. We can express our views, alone or with a million of our compatriots, about how government should be run and what government should do. That is our right. We do not, however, have the right to the outcome we desired. Elected officials are public servants, but not our personal servants. We don’t get to order them around. And if they don’t do as we want, we don’t get to destroy their homes, ransack their government buildings or hold their loved ones hostage. Not even if we really, really, believe we’re on the side of justice.
What’s happened in Washington may well be the most outrageous act of political terrorism of our lifetime. I say “may be” because I do not know what next week will bring. Things could get far worse if the reports of what Trump’s acolytes plan to do are correct. And so it’s absolutely clear, they are every bit as sincere in their belief that they are saving the nation as are the people damaging Dan Ryan’s home. The sincerity of one’s belief has nothing to do with its accuracy, but it has everything to do with the passion of one’s belief that it’s worth the harm, the risk, for the cause.
Each of these things is an act of political terrorism wrapped in beliefs that violence and destruction is justified to accomplish worthy ends. At least Dan Ryan wasn’t hung for being a traitor, as might have happened to Vice President Mike Pence had the insurrectionists gotten their hands on him.
But make no mistake, while they are independent acts of vastly different magnitude, vandalizing the home of Portland Commissioner Dan Ryan, seven times now, is still very wrong and deserving of condemnation, outrage and prosecution. Not because it’s the left. Not because it’s as remotely bad as the Trump Insurrection. Not because their cause is wrong or grounded in absurd lies. No. It’s because it is wrong, it is terrorism, to use violence and destruction to influence political decision-making in a democracy, and whoever does so is wrong.