Dear America: Wake the Hell Up
I haven’t written much since President Trump’s inauguration. I wanted to wait a few months to see what would happen under his administration before making any declarations of alarm or hope. But things have turned out worse than I ever expected - and it has nothing to do with the President.
In the opening months, a large segment of our population began acting like petulant babies (not that I’ve ever heard a baby burble, “Blow up the White House!”) and, at first, I thought it was all a little laughable. Then there was Berkeley. And another segment, smaller than the first but still disturbingly large, showed itself to be a pack of dangerous, violent bullies, literally putting the torch to the Berkeley campus to prevent conservative speakers from fulfilling their engagements. Since then, there have been several more “Berkeley riots,” all involving violent assaults on groups daring to voice views that didn’t conform to the local mores (the most recent target was an anti-Marxist rally).
I'm not laughing anymore.
The “Free Speech Movement” began at Berkeley in 1964. I suppose it’s only fitting that the movement to destroy our First Amendment rights should take root there first as well. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what we’re witnessing. Think I’m exaggerating the stakes? The California State Senate has already passed SB 219, which calls for “a $1,000 fine and up to one year in prison” for those “who ‘willfully and repeatedly’ refuse ‘to use a transgender resident’s preferred name or pronouns’.” It’s now in the hands of the state assembly.
Protestors are hypocritically using their freedom of speech to demand that this very freedom be curtailed over feelings. You may say something that is unpopular, or distasteful, or disagreeable, or offensive. Therefore, you must be silenced – by force, if necessary – before that can happen. Or if an example is needed for the cameras.
The destructive riots at Berkeley were difficult to defend, but luckily there was idiocy waiting to be exploited. In Charlotte, South Carolina, a group of people who believe that white skin makes one superior applied for a permit to stage a rally. They were countered by people without any such permit, espousing the view that black lives matter more than anyone else’s. Frankly, it was a clash of racist idiots and, not unexpectedly, violence broke out.
But, hey, white supremacists. We’re talking Nazis! They’re so awful, we don’t have to acknowledge that they weren’t the only ones acting badly! Everyone can hate Nazis, right? And nobody cares if they get beaten or killed, right?
Now, any non-radical-Left protest or gathering is declared “alt-right” and/or “white supremacist” because, well, Nazis. With the apparent exception of gangs of masked thugs determining what you are permitted to say in public under threat of violence, most anyone now runs the risk of being labeled (and therefore dehumanized, marginalized, and threatened) as a "fascist." Voted for Trump? Fascist. Support the First Amendment right of free speech for all Americans? Total fascist! Express concern that Black Lives Matter promotes racism and violence? Racist fascist!!
Around the country, long-standing monuments to Confederate leaders have been pulled down, sometimes by authorized action, sometimes by violent rioters, always because of feelings. An Asian ESPN commentator was pulled, last-minute, from his on-air seat because the network was concerned his name – Robert Lee – would be “upsetting” to some viewers. Yet it’s somehow okay to hold pro-Marxist rallies while waving a Soviet flag, despite the fact that global Communists have enslaved and murdered – and continue to enslave and murder - far more innocent people than the Third Reich or Confederacy ever did. Why? Because white supremacy! And if you disagree, you must support Nazis. You fascist!!
Do you see how that shuts down any discussion of facts or opportunity to expand one’s horizons?
We've lost the ability to disagree, because we've lost the ability to think critically, to question ourselves, and to entertain, even briefly, a differing viewpoint. Everything is now about deep-rooted emotional outrage and moral absolutes. And that way, as we are seeing, lies violence - which you had better believe begets more. Hatred may be the ultimate renewable energy source, and while it may be self-sustaining, it sure as hell isn’t clean.
Reality check time. The grammatical rule of double-negatives does not apply here. If you hate a "hater," you are, in fact, one yourself. You cannot be "defending the rights of the oppressed" while violently oppressing the rights of others, no matter how noble you think your motives. When you use pickets and banners to physically beat down people who disagree with you, you are still a violent, savage asshole even if your bludgeons are clearly labeled to declare your support for love, hugs, and tolerance.
In short, you don’t have a right to assault people, even if they espouse views you find “intolerable.” You need to suck it up, unclench your fists, and, as I used to tell my kids when they were smaller, “use your words.”
America, if we don't wake the hell up and grow the hell up, we are in for a shitstorm of biblical proportions, and no one will get out unbloodied. It’s time to take a very deep breath and consider where we want this to go. We’re not past a point of no return yet, but we’re edging closer.