Making threats of violence undermines our self-government

Threats, even those that are never carried out, are corrosive and divisive. They seek to make us a land ruled by fear rather than public discourse.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker says that his children are “off-limits,” during a press conference where he announced that he is enforcing Tier 3 mitiagtions in Illinois to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop, Tuesday afternoon.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Making threats of violence against our governor’s family should simply not happen in Illinois.

Unfortunately, such threats are growing more common across the nation. It’s up to the rest of us to tamp down any suggestion of violence whenever we run across it.

On Tuesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said his family received a series of “hateful and threatening” messages after a debunked photo went viral purporting to show his daughter eating at a Chicago restaurant. Pritzker said the threats affected his family’s Thanksgiving plans.

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“Hateful and threatening” messages? Over something that didn’t even happen? Such threats eat away at the cohesion that holds our city, state and nation together.

It’s not just Illinois. Across the nation, store employees are threatened when they ask customers to wear masks. Health care workers are threatened when they encourage pandemic safety measures.

On Wednesday, it was reported Arizona law enforcement officers are investigating an apparent death threat against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. On Tuesday, it was announced Milwaukee police officers, because of a death threat, will accompany city health inspectors checking into COVID-19 safety violations. Last month, in what was deemed a credible threat, a city police officer reportedly threatened to shoot and kill Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. The officer denied it.

As election officials and ballot counters worked to make this a secure and accurate election, Benjamin Hovland, chair of the Election Assistance Commission, reported they received an “abnormal” number of threats. On Nov. 11, the Detroit Free Press reported someone threatened to rape and commit violence against the mothers of election canvassers. Georgia’s secretary of state said he has received death threats as his office handled the recount in that state. Immunologist Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who is just trying to save our lives from COVID-19, said he and his family have received threats.

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In the most frightening incident, the FBI disclosed an alleged plot to kidnap and execute Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and perhaps Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, as well. Last month, police reported an alleged threat to kidnap Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

Threats of violence, even those that are never carried out, are corrosive and divisive. They seek to make us a land ruled by fear rather than public discourse. No one should shrug them off, in any circumstances.

Let’s remind ourselves — and others who need to hear it — that we are better than that.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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