This week, there was back-and-forth sniping in the Senate Chamber of the U.S. Capitol. Ted Cruz, the junior 🔴 Senator from Texas, led what has amounted to be a blockade on President Biden’s nominees to the Department of State. His adversarial counterparts—the 🔵 Senators—threatened to keep all Senators in Washington for government business for Christmas week. Personally, I actually wouldn’t mind the U.S. Senate having to work away from their homes and families during Christmas week—or even New Year’s week—considering there are thousands of diplomats who are handling the nation’s business abroad away from their homes and families in the States. That includes me, by the way, as I’m here all alone in Bogotá. All of this comes on the heels of a very contentious Senate confirmation hearing session for Saule Omarova—the President’s pick to head the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency—in which she withdrew her nomination. The 🔵 side accused the 🔴 side of smearing Omarova’s name and reputation in a partisan ploy. Basically, it was the same tired-ass games the Senate has played in confirmation hearings since the Bork Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1987. Really, it’s the same games the 2 political parties have played since the birth of the nation. The personal nature of the attacks on each other along political lines reminded me of what I learned in high school 20 years ago. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Burr-Hamilton duel.
How I first came across this moment? I first learned about the Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton duel in Mrs. Bean’s Honors U.S. History 10 class at Parker High on January 17, 2001.
What it meant to me then? As I wrote in that day’s entry of Triumphs & Tribulations I, I was fascinated with the concept of dueling. Though I felt it was certainly an extreme manner in which personal issues were resolved, I actually liked all of the formalities tied to them. For instance, the challenger—often the offended person—issues a public, personal grievance. The challenged—typically the offender—either apologizes publicly or accepts the duel and picks the weapons. I like how they had doctors and especially seconds, whom were the go-betweens trying to squash it. I like how the concept was really about defending one’s honor and reputation.
What it means to me now? Dueling has been outlawed in the United States for well over 200 years. The Burr-Hamilton duel remains the most famous duel and perhaps the most renowned moment in the most bitter rivalry in American history. With all that has gone on in Washington over the years, I actually think dueling would settle a lot of the personal animosity that permeates the corridors of the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and even the Supreme Court Building. I sincerely believe that if our elected leaders were made to, as Hamilton put it, “abide the consequences” of their words on a field of honor, we’d get a lot less of this political grandstanding that has become so commonplace in politics and general society. From calling a sitting U.S. President a “white supremacist” to branding an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court a “serial rapist” to accusing a nominee to be comptroller of the currency as a “Soviet spy”, it’s all out of line. Personally, I would take it as an affront to my reputation. And those that know me know those are offenses of which I do not abide. With so much of these affronts happening in today’s society—political, social, economic, etc.—there should absolutely be duels. I feel like if one is brazen enough to personally insult someone, they should absolutely “abide the consequences”, which may require blood. I’m not calling for people to willingly shoot others in defense of their honor but maybe the seriousness of the duel concept will definitely change behaviors. Just a thought.