Magazine February 7, 2011, Issue

Violence in America

(Bettmann/Corbis)
A survey

H.  Rap Brown said that violence is as American as cherry pie. This is true of Brown, who is serving a life sentence for murdering a sheriff’s deputy. There is also a long history of violence in and around American politics, whose latest episode was the Tucson shooting. But it is not the only story. Americans should remember both sides of their split personality.

Two old catalysts of political violence in our history have been slavery and its child, racism. Slavery produces slave revolts, and requires eternal vigilance against them. Slave owners themselves sometimes saw the resulting violence as political. John

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