Politics

Congressman Challenges ACA Opponent to a Duel

“I would call such behavior childish, but that would be insulting to actual children.”

By Heidi Welte; OpsLens:

On July 24, 2017, Representative Farenthold said in a radio interview that if the Republican senators opposing Senator McConnell’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan were men instead of women, he “might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.” On the surface, it is downright comical; however, it is but a symptom of a much more serious problem—bitterly divided factions and general dysfunction to which modern American politics has devolved and of which both major political parties are guilty.

They do not work together anymore, they do not compromise anymore, nor do they seem to have any interest in doing so. Instead, today’s political scene has become the rough equivalent of two people digging their heels into the ground and refusing to budge while screaming at the other, “No, you move!” This attitude has only worked to further divide the country and frustrate the American people. They only listen for what they want to hear or for sound bytes they can use as ammunition against the opposing party. Now, we have an individual who would rather shoot at the other person than listen to their concerns without hidden agendas or judgment.

Listening to understand another’s point of view and compromising seem to have become lost arts as far as the political scene goes. If anything is to be accomplished, both parties need to back down and start working together. It simply cannot go on like this. The kitchen is on fire and threatens to engulf the whole house in flames, and they’re arguing about how the fire started and why they should not be the one to call the fire department or help put out the flames. I would call such behavior childish, but that would be insulting to actual children.

Instead of trying to work together and find a compromise that everybody can at least live with, they want to challenge the other party to a duel. Representative Farenthold is not the only modern-day American politician who wishes duels were still a viable option with which to resolve disputes. In 2013, Senator Rand Paul, following plagiarism accusations, wished he could challenge his critics to duels.

Need a refresher on duels?

Duels do not occur today in the United States, but they were common before the Revolution and into the early 19th century among upper class gentlemen as a means of resolving disputes of honor. If you were a gentleman in the 18th century or early 19th century and someone insulted your honor—your reputation—and refused to apologize, you could demand satisfaction by challenging them to a duel. They would be considered a coward if they refused to face you in a duel.

Sometimes swords were used, but single shot pistols were the most common dueling weapon. Both parties ended up meeting at a location to regain or defend their honor, and if neither party was willing to back down, shots would be exchanged until the insulted party was satisfied. There were rules to it, of course, laid out in the Code Duello. Many duels did not end in shots being exchanged, but some did.

Aaron Burr, then the current vice president of these United States, and Alexander Hamilton, former secretary of the treasury, met in Weehawken, New Jersey for such a duel on July 11, 1804. This was a popular dueling site close to New York (as dueling was illegal in both New York and in New Jersey but the possible legal penalties were less severe in New Jersey) hence its selection.

Burr and Hamilton had once been friendly with one another, but years of the bitter rivalry between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans, the political parties of the day, had turned them into acerbic rivals. In a long correspondence, Burr claimed Hamilton insulted him and demanded an apology. Hamilton refused, saying he could not recall saying anything specifically to insult Burr. Eventually, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel, which Hamilton accepted.

They met early in the morning. Burr was uninjured—historians are unsure whether or not Hamilton intentionally missed Burr. Burr clearly intended to shoot to kill, and he did. Hamilton was hit in the lower abdomen and died the following day. Burr was charged with murder in both New York and New Jersey, but neither charge ever went to trial. He went into hiding at a friend’s plantation in Georgia before returning to Washington, D.C. to finish his term as vice president.

Back to Reality?

Does Representative Farenthold believe his honor has been insulted by those senators opposing the bill to repeal the ACA, or does he simply lack understanding pertaining to the historic use of dueling?

He claims his remarks were not meant to be taken seriously, that they were tongue in cheek, but effectively saying you wish you could shoot at and possibly kill someone over a mere difference in opinion and later claim you were joking is about as believable as deliberately insulting someone and then trying to ameliorate the situation by saying it was a joke after everybody else becomes angry with you.

Both parties need to set aside their differences and work together for the common good instead of being stubborn and obstinate for the sake of being so and challenging each other to duels.

Heidi Welte is an OpsLens Contributor and U.S. Navy Veteran.

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