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OPINION

How America Lost Its Head

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

In 2013, the left went nuts over a rodeo clown.

The rodeo clown was performing at the Missouri State Fair, and he had the awful temerity to wear a mask of then-President Obama. "We're going to stomp Obama now," said an announcer. "Hey, I know I'm a clown," the rodeo clown replied. "He's just running around acting like one. Doesn't know he is one." The media quoted a bystander who compared the act to a Ku Klux Klan rally. The lieutenant governor of the state condemned the act, as did one of the senators. The rodeo clown was fired, even though he'd dressed up as other presidents in the past.

Fast-forward four years.

On Tuesday, TMZ posted photos of comedienne Kathy Griffin, who has helped host CNN's New Year's Eve coverage for a decade, holding a mock-up of President Trump's severed head covered in blood. Griffin has a long record of anti-Trump sentiment, of course; in February, she told MSNBC's Chris Matthews: "I'm a big resister, and I don't believe in compromise with this president. I also think he's crazy. I think he's mentally ill. He's also an idiot." But this photo shoot crossed a rather obvious line -- it celebrated Trump's prospective murder. Imagine if anyone on the right had done something similar with Obama. The outcry would have been deafening.

Yet the same people who ask for trigger warnings for material that might offend anyone; the same people who believe that there is a "rape culture" that pervades America; the same people who say that President Trump has incentivized a culture of political violence across the land; are largely silent about Griffin's antics. Why? Because political violence is no longer taboo in the United States. It's just another tactic to utilize when useful and denigrate when others engage in it.

That sentiment expresses itself on both sides of the political aisle. When Montana House candidate Greg Gianforte allegedly body-slammed a reporter, prominent conservatives including talk-show host Laura Ingraham demeaned his victim as a wuss and championed Gianforte as a sort of stalwart man's man. When leftists attacked Trump rallies during the 2016 election cycle, the media attempted to paint them as defenders of the common good against Trump himself.

The overused phrase "cycle of violence" is often used by the press to refer to situations in which an aggressor acts violently and somebody defends him. But we've entered an actual cycle in violent political rhetoric, whereby the vileness of the left provokes a direct response from the right, and vice versa.

And it's getting worse.

If you spend all day proclaiming that you're in a "civil war" with other Americans, that you're part of the "resistance," it's only a matter of time until you become willing to look the other way at violence itself. If Americans aren't your brothers and sisters, if we disagree, then they will quickly become your enemies. Kathy Griffin may think it's hilarious to hold up a bloody head of the president of the United States, but she's tearing away at the social fabric far more than President Trump. And those who back her play are helping to provoke their enemies to respond in kind.

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