Type furiously, select all, delete, type furiously, select all, delete, type somewhat more slowly and contemplatively, re-read, overthink, worry what the reader will think/that I haven’t made my point clear, select all, delete, delete draft.
These are steps I often go through with any blog post, but the ones that I have strong feelings about doubly so; which means I have written and deleted some version of this post probably half a dozen times already. I justify it by saying that no one really reads my blog posts anyway, so it’s not like it’ll be missed, but the truth is that I do it to avoid the discomfort of hard conversations.
How nice it is, to be able sit here in my privilege while the awful events of last week unfolded and not have to acknowledge it if I choose. To know that a mob of white supremacists and conspiracy theorists was able to somehow breach a government building with little resistance as I go on about my usual day to day. To have read the tweets that had been sent out by the current President of the United States encouraging these people weeks before this happened and pretend to be surprised when they did exactly what was expected of them. To not address the blatant double standard this whole situation has exposed. I can sit here in my privilege, and shake my head and click my tongue, and type furiously, and select all, and delete, and delete draft. But as disgusted and nauseated as I am by the whole situation, every time I hit delete, I am complicit.
Last Wednesday, I had the news on TV as background noise while I was eating lunch (not even by choice if I’m being honest, but because the vote certification process preempted Days of Our Lives – just in case you needed more evidence of my privilege). I watched as Mike Pence began the repetitive process of certifying the electoral votes from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona… objection. As lawmakers retired to debate the objection, the reporter threw it to an anchor outside where protestors were marching. The scene looked like a cross between a typical protest march and cosplay, but for the moment, everything seemed under control, and I zoned out, scrolling through my phone and finishing my lunch with the whole scene playing out as background noise. The next time I focused on the screen, there was a crowd of protestors at the top of the stairs of the Capitol building, and obviously had no intention of stopping there. My stomach was in absolute knots as I watched this mob of people push into the police guarding the building, and quickly overwhelm them. “Where is the tear gas?” I asked my empty living room. “Where are the rubber bullets? Where is the National Guard?” At this point, I was so sick to my stomach I turned off the TV. Because of my privilege, I had that choice. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to distract myself with mundane tasks, while neurotically checking my phone for updates; increasingly blown away each time I read that not only was the situation not under control, but had escalated even further as rioters breached the building; vandalizing government property and threatening the lives and safety of the people inside.
Later that evening, I posted on my personal Facebook page inviting anyone on my friend list to please take leave of my space if they, in any way, supported, or thought they could justify the behavior of the people involved in the events of the day. For the most part, though, I kept key details of my own views tucked safely away where my words could not be argued as “political,” because while I think the only role politics should play in human rights is to guarantee and protect them, apparently this view is controversial. So after nearly a week of typing, and deleting, I’ve decided if that’s what it comes down to, I’ll take “political” over “complicit.”
So here we go.
First of all, I refuse to believe anyone can be truly surprised “something like this” happened. Plans to protest the election certification had been planned for weeks. The President himself called his supporters to the Capitol to protest the certification as early as mid-December, and if anyone thought it was going to be an afternoon of linking arms and sing alongs, they’re not being truthful to themselves or anyone else. Even if authorities were operating on good faith that the protests would be peaceful (because when has a group of angry white people ever gone wrong?), they have no excuse for being “unprepared.”
Interestingly enough, the same police force was completely “prepared” for a Black Lives Matter rally at the same location last summer – complete with tear gas and the National Guard (just in case) – and those protestors weren’t anywhere near breaching a government building. If you don’t see this as a blatant double standard in support of whiteness, I implore you to challenge your views. It’s my opinion that most people have a hard time accepting that they are on the privileged side oppression because they’re afraid that makes them bad people, and that’s where we get into the “not all…” rhetoric. I’m asking that instead of taking the situation personally, you try and step back and look at things from a different perspective. The fact is, this situation would have been handled very differently had the protestors not been a group of white people in attendance at the invitation of the President.
I’ve said before that I’m not interested in arguing Republican vs. Democrat in this issue. While protestors present were there in support of the President, who claims to be Republican, I doubt any of them could give a very compelling argument to which Republican values they were there to stand up for. This was an opportunity to further the platform of hate and division and violence that so many of the groups in attendance stand for, and while it failed to stop the vote certifying the next President, it succeeded in stirring a now boiling pot that has been bubbling at the surface for years.
“This is not America.” Actually, it is. This is what happens when history is ignored, and generations of hate and intolerance are waved away with excuses and claims that “it’s not like that anymore.” As sad and as disgusting as the entire situation is, we’ve reaped exactly what we’ve sown. We’ve allowed ourselves to become complicit in our division. To put all the blame on “them,” but never on “me” (because we’re all so individual – there is no “us”).
So where do we go from here? This is where the talk of unity has come in. “We can’t let this further divide us!” “Shouldn’t we show them they can’t win by coming together and being peaceful?” As someone who goes through life avoiding conflict at every turn, even I have to shout a resounding HELL NO! Make peace?! With people that stand for violence and white supremacy and civil war?! What kind of message does that send?
Listen. I hate conflict. I hate the knotted up feeling it gives me in the pit of my stomach. I hate how on edge even the slightest feeling of contention puts me. Even typing this post makes me uncomfortable. But as I said before, choosing to ignore it makes me complicit; and making peace with groups and individuals that stand for values that I am so strongly against is a level of complicit I just can’t sign on to. The events of last week crossed a very large, very bold line, and the people held responsible – ALL the people held responsible (including, and especially, the President) – have to be held accountable, or it will happen again – maybe not soon (but maybe), but if we set the standard that this kind of behavior is tolerable at all, it will be a green light for extremists from every angle to incite violence. There has to be accountability.
And then, once accountability has been issued for this event, maybe we can start talking about unity and healing. It’s not going to be a quick thing. It’s going to be a lot of hard conversations involving looking into some very dark areas of our past, and taking responsibility for things we have done or said – or maybe didn’t do and didn’t say. “WE” – not “them.” It’s our job to see our own defects, because those are the only defects we have the ability to do anything about. It’s important that we realize that we didn’t just wake up a divided nation one morning, and we can’t wake up united in the same small time frame. We’ll never be effectively healed as a community unless we acknowledge and work through the areas we are broken. I have faith in humanity though, and in the belief that there are more good people out there with a heart for peace than there are those with a heart for hate.