So Much to Be Upset About: A Cabin Fever Short List

Forgive me if Covid-19 isolation is finally getting to me. But (like many of you, I’m sure) I find there are just so many things to be upset about these days. So, let me relieve the pressure and mention just three: the attack on the capitol, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R Ga.), and the Super Bowl.

Capitol Attack

Did you see the film presented by the Democratic impeachment team last Tuesday? If not, click on the video above. I found that collage both disgusting and perversely empowering. On the disgusting side:

  • It was ultimate proof of white privilege, wasn’t it?
  • I mean, during BLM protests right-wing media and Republicans were outraged when some businesses were set on ablaze.
  • However, those same media along with those Republican officials – the very ones under attack during the insurrection – find excuses to downplay white supremacists ravaging the nation’s congress. Can you believe that?
  • Imagine if the insurrectionists were black, armed and destroying capitol property – roaming about looking for officials to kill.
  • Don’t tell me that a lot of black protestors wouldn’t have been shot.
  • We’d never hear the end of it.
  • For sure, police protection would have been much heavier. (If you’ve been to DC during protests, e.g., against the war in Iraq, you know the place is always absolutely crawling with cops lining the streets in phalanx dressed in heavy riot gear just waiting to pounce.)
  • Or what if the insurrectionists had been Muslims? We’d be bombing some poor country like Yemen right now in self-righteous response.
  • And what about all that money DC (and every other city in this great country of ours) spends on policing? You mean, they couldn’t prevent that fiasco?

Nonetheless, while disagreeing with its cause, I somehow felt rebelliously good about the insurrection.

  • It showed that revolution is possible — what it would look like if we followed the advice of Thomas Jefferson about regular citizen uprisings.
  • I loved the thought of Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi (and Mike Pence!) hiding under their desks.
  • Their lives shouldn’t be threatened, but they do need to be afraid of us. They’re not. And disgracefully, beneficiaries of white privilege are the only ones at this historical juncture whom the system allows to intimidate irresponsible politicians.
  • I mean, Pelosi and McConnell are not our friends.
  • Neither are Biden and Harris.
  • And of course, neither is Trump.
  • None of them represents us; they exclusively represent their donors.
  • They won’t even consider universal health care during an actual pandemic. They refuse to keep campaign promises to increase the minimum wage to $15 and to send out $2000 (not $1400!) checks when so many have been out of work for nearly a year.
  • Yes, those were democratic campaign promises! It’s how they won Georgia.
  • They lied!
  • No wonder people are angry.

Marjorie Taylor-Greene

And don’t get me started about U.S. congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R Ga).

  • So, she wants Obama executed?
  • She’s called for the murder of Nancy Pelosi – specifically with a bullet to the head?
  • Imagine if Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib had said that about Mitch McConnell — a bullet to his head.
  • Even if you or I uttered such monstrosities, SWAT teams would be at our doors right now with battering rams.
  • But she’s allowed to continue serving as a government official.
  • Double standards, anyone?
  • White privilege?

The Super Bowl

And then there’s the Super Bowl with white people complaining about the NFL’s predominantly black workforce calling attention to wanton police murders of their unarmed racial counterparts.

  • Whites’ response to the reduced Super Bowl TV audience?  Too much mixture of politics and sports. “Get woke. Go broke,” they say.
  • They ask, “Why politicize a football game?”
  • Good, that’s what I say! In fact, I’ve been saying it for years.  I mean why play the National Anthem, “honor our troops,” and normalize war with special flyovers of air force weapons of mass destruction (aka fighter planes) at every major sports event you care to name? What’s the connection? I don’t get it. (Imagine if your boss had you stand for the National Anthem before work each day.)
  • At least Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks) is on the right page on this one. He’s decided to eliminate playing the “Star Spangled Banner” before any home games. Good idea, Mark. If everyone followed suit, it would save me from wondering whether to stand or not.
  • And thanks Colin Kaepernick!

Of course, my cabin fever list could go on and on. So could yours, I’m sure.

Face It: President Trump Is Right; There Was “Violence on Many Sides”

Trump Charlottesville

Commentators on both left and right were understandably outraged by President Trump’s tepid remarks about the violence in Charlottesville last weekend. He condemned what he referred to as “violence — on many sides.”

Can you imagine his words if the driver of that car in Virginia had been Muslim?

Yet, the president’s (for once) measured response proves to be unwittingly perceptive and wise.

That’s because in Charlottesville, there was indeed violence on many sides. In fact, if we adopted President Trump’s low-key perspective, our responses to violence in any form might be similarly measured and sage. It would help us recognize that in Charlottesville only the antifa violence enjoyed any degree of justification.

Let me explain.

Violence is never one-dimensional. As Dom Helder Camara, the sainted Catholic archbishop of Recife in Brazil, pointed out years ago, in most cases, there is a predictable “spiral of violence” that is often overlooked. It involves structures, self-defense, police response, and sometimes terrorism on the part of individuals and (most often) the state.

Consider Charlottesville; it clarifies by representing every turn of the spiral.

In the eyes of African-Americans, the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee represents the structural violence of slavery and white supremacy. Such institutionalized violence is invisible to most white people. However, the alt right reaction to the statue’s removal finally rendered monument’s real institutionally violent meaning unmistakable. It represents white nationalism, and not “southern pride” after all. As a result, nationalists’ march was itself an act of institutionalized violence.

That violent assertion of white supremacy led to a second level of violence on the part of African-Americans and their allies. When their peaceful protest was attacked by the white nationalists, the protestors defended themselves – yes, violently. Archbishop Camara identified such self-defense (against institutionalized cruelty) as virtually the only form our culture recognizes (and typically condemns) as violence. And yet, it is perhaps, the only justifiable type. Everyone has the right to self-defense.

The third level of violence entered when the Charlottesville police “stood down” in the face of the mayhem taking place before their eyes. Usually, police (third level) response simply restores the violent status quo ante. Ironically, however, in the case of Charlottesville, it was police inaction that represented Dom Helder’s third level of violence.  Their standing-down facilitated the alt right attacks.

Finally, in Charlottesville last weekend, there was the terroristic violence of the Nazi sympathizer and Trump supporter who murdered Heather Heyer and injured many others when he plowed his car into those demonstrating against the institutionalized violence represented by white supremacists. That’s the fourth turn in the “spiral of violence.” In the case of Charlottesville, such terrorism too was aligned with violence’s structural form.

Unfortunately, the driver’s terroristic expression might soon be institutionalized itself as states like North Carolina are on the verge of granting motorists the legal right to run over protestors who might be blocking traffic. In that case, an individual’s terroristic act would be transformed into state terrorism, which happens to be terrorism’s most common incarnation as seen, for example, in drone killings, torture, and threats of nuclear war.

So, as you can see, the president was right. Violence is indeed many-sided. Applying Trump’s Principle of Understanding might well make him and all of us much more thoughtful and cautious in responding to tragedies like Charlottesville last week. It would always prompt us to examine context and make crucial distinctions. It would help us recognize that of all forms of violence, only the second (self-defensive) level has any hope of justification at all.

Violence is a powerful word. President Trump inadvertently reminds us that we should be careful in its use and in any actions it might inspire.