Tag: black lives matter

My Country In Wartime

We Shall Overcome

I have felt this atmosphere in my country before.

In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, there was a palpable aura around the people who walked to and fro, doing their best to go about their daily lives. We fought back against a paralysis so gripping, it threatened to choke the life from us. We’d been knocked back on our heels. We’d taken a sucker punch to the gut. And we resolved, as a nation, not to let the fear rule our lives. We didn’t normalize what had happened. We fought back. We went to war.

I hate that word. War.

FDR hated it, too. He said as much in an address given at Chautauqua, N.Y. in 1936:

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping, exhausted men come out of line—the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.

I am seeing, and feeling, so many parallels, between those times and now, that I have to use a word and idea that may prove antithetical to what’s best for our society, but rings true no matter how I might deny it.

What has happened in the wake of this latest election in the United States is no less than a declaration of war.

I look at the rhetoric. I read between the lines. I see what’s been spewed from the deep places of the Internet. I hear tell of ambitious plans to continue shifting the global atmosphere to one of hatred and “cleansing”, from electing more radically prejudiced leaders to a delineation of in what order to “purge” those who are “lesser”. These are more than words. These are weapons. And they are aimed directly at a global heart of compassion and understanding just now beginning to emerge from the darkness.

In art, there is truth, and words from one of the authors who helped shape me ring true:

ARAGORN: Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.

This is why it is so important that this behavior, this aggression, this warmongering, is not normalized. We cannot and must not accept it as the new zeitgeist. We must stand together against a tide of ignorance and smug notions of superiority. Our imperative, as a species that wishes to survive and prosper, is to stand together, in love and understanding, and declare that this venom will not kill us. Regardless of our colors, genders, orientations, creeds, and backgrounds, we owe it to ourselves and each other to work as one to overcome what threatens to undermine, belittle, divide, and destroy us.

We had a hand in how this came about. We ignored the warnings. We downplayed the severity of the potential consequences. Some of us fell into arrogant presumption, others savored the opportunity to say “we told you so”, still others took the proceedings as a joke, and as a whole, we failed to stand against a rising tide of darkness that now threatens, more than it ever has before, to engulf the world we are trying so hard to save.

The mistakes are ours. We made our decisions. We behold and are sickened by the consequences.

Blame does not matter. Being crippled by guilt is no better than being crippled by fear.

What matters is — what do we do now?

We stand. We plant our feet. We take one another’s hands. We look at one another to see the light we have to share, and foster that light to shine with our individual flames.

We meet the enemy on the field and declare that we do not and will never surrender.

This is not normal. This is not right.

It falls to us to protect the work we’ve already done and the potential we have to make our future better. Each of us, as individuals, has something to offer in what is to come. If we can come together, if we can stymie the growing threat of all-encompassing hatred, if we prove that love can, should, and must prevail — we can win this. We can protect ourselves and our future. And we can look back on this moment and say that, this time, this time, evil was not allowed to rule the day. We can prove that we can get, and be, better.

We shall overcome.

If my voice has any reach, any meaning, I use it to say this: join me. Not in accepting this as the new normal, but denying it power over us and our future. Join me in a community that shares love, strength, and truth. Join me in looking past one another’s flaws, mistakes, and prejudices, to the veracity and beauty of our inner Selves, and telling the darkness and hatred in the world that it cannot prevail, it cannot destroy or conquer us, and it cannot and shall not pass.

I will not be silent. I will not stand idle. I will not let this poison kill us.

I will stand with you, in this time of war.

Will you stand with me?

This was a terrorist attack.

Looking at the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States, that is the only conclusion that makes sense to me. Granted, I’m no authority on such matters, but the evidence points to a large number of voters who did not respond to polls, organized and mobilized in large numbers, and took action to undercut and disenfranchise a progressive movement that, while stymied thanks to the DNC, still has momentum and promise.

A lot of people are terrified as a result. And that is the goal of a terrorist attack.

Not the loss of life. Not the damage to property. The fear.

We don’t talk about white terrorism a lot in this country. It doesn’t get a lot of press. It doesn’t sell headlines. And even if it would, the white businesspeople in charge of the news media don’t normally allow such things to come to light. It’s always been easier to foist blame upon the other and alienate those who are different. It’s deflection. It’s projection. And, most disgustingly, it’s worked for millennia.

I know this might be coming off as hysteria or paranoia, but this is the only way the outcome makes any sense to me. White rural voters — poorly educated, irrationally angry, entrenched in antiquated notions, and/or deliberately misinformed — let their hate fester in their homes and hearts. They ignored polls and pundits. They anticipated election day. And they turned out in droves. Motivated by ignorance, hatred, and fear of their own, they pushed their racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic agendas through in the form of a demagogue, and they’re salivating at the thought of ‘taking [their] country back’ and ‘making America great again’.

If that isn’t terrorism, I don’t know what is.

It was arrogance, on both sides, that allowed this to happen.

I mean, we’ve been on this path since before the “American experiment” began. But I don’t have the room to expound upon that here.

All I can do is look at the facts. Not cast blame, but discuss facts.

The DNC, in its arrogance, turned its nose up at a progressive platform full of motivated, well-educated voters whose candidate spoke with conviction, passion, and honesty. The prevailing Democratic campaign, in its arrogance, did not take the threat of hate-fueled demagoguery seriously. Disgusted voters, in their arrogance, raised middle fingers to the call for a unified front from the very candidate they had backed, and threw their votes away on candidates that did nothing but fracture their own base. And the arrogance of the opposing voter base that they would ‘rise again’ pushed them to take deliberate action that threatens to set this country back decades, if not reshape it into something truly ugly and unrecognizable to the idealists who fought for the freedom of slaves, women’s suffrage, and the rights of the LGBTQ community.

In one way or another, we all have a share of responsibility in how things have turned out in this country.

Which means the responsibility of pushing back against our mistakes and doing better, acting better, being better, falls to us, as individuals, and as a people who need to stand together, believe in ourselves and one another, and not go quietly into the night.

I’m terrified.

I worry about a lot of people around me. My thoughts are with the wonderful human beings I’ve met who boldly express their nonbinary identities, the indigenous people of this land who have been cruelly and wantonly abused since Europeans landed on their shores, and the women and people of color who now have to wonder what the future holds for them and their families. I’m disconnected from many of those I knew personally. I’ve worked hard to be a better version of myself than I ever have before, in spite of the fact that, in the long run, that work may not matter to anybody but myself.

Every day, that work continues, in spite of the phantoms of my mistakes and this renewed feeling of despair.

But this is not a time to crawl into a hole and cover oneself in dirt.

I feel and acknowledge my fear and my grief, but I will not allow them to prevail over me.

I recognize that my sincerity and integrity and veracity may be questioned, but I will not allow my voice to fall silent.

In spite of all the damage that has been done, through deliberate acts or poor decision-making, on a national or personal level, I still believe we can rise above our circumstances and what is set against us. I still believe in the better natures within us — as Yoda put it, “luminous beings are we, not this crude matter” — that defy basic animal reactive impulses of lashing out blindly, fleeing, or freezing. I still believe that love is far, far more powerful than hatred. I still believe that our capacity to imagine one another complexly is far, far more powerful than reducing one another to caricatures of humanity or spectres of monstrosity. I still believe that, without violence or destruction, love can prevail over fear, knowledge can prevail over ignorance, and barriers set up by established and insecure bastions of power can be smashed by those who stand together, as one unified force of understanding and love, and say


Like so many, I feel like an outcast, disconnected from what I thought I knew, adrift in uncharted territory.

But dammit, I am still holding onto the idea that there is good in this world. And it is worth fighting for.

It may be a foolish idea. I’ve had quite a few foolish ideas in my lifetime. Some lead to horrible mistakes.

This isn’t one of them. This foolish idea, this one, is good, and worth sharing.

And if all I can do is share it with you, tell you that you’re not alone, and that I love you — we may have never met, we may have lost touch, we might never meet, but dammit, I love you — and that we can and will fight back against this — not just fight, but win — then that is what I will do.

With all the strength I have. With all of the love in my heart. With every breath I take until I breathe my last.

I stand with you and for you.

Now. And always.

Let’s get to work.

Retaliation vs. Retribution


I have hackles. I have more hackles than I’d like to admit. And when they get raised, it isn’t a pretty sight. I’m someone that believes that people in general should be treated with respect and understanding, And when they aren’t, be it in meatspace or on the Internet, I get angry about it. I cannot grok why patience and comprehension are so anathema to another human being. I get frustrated when someone cannot or will not imagine the other complexly. It makes me downright mad.

But how do I channel that emotion into effective change, and not just rage at the offense in impotence?

There is a difference, I feel, between retaliation and retribution. It’s the difference between revenge and justice. Societal standards of what constitutes justice can vary wildly in different parts of the world. Even in an internally demarcated entity like the United States, laws differ in wording, intent, or even existence from polity to polity, despite the presence of a unified overarching government.

I don’t think that changes the fact that people should expect a baseline level of respect, understanding, and compassion from other people.

Leaving aside arguments of semantics and specific polity laws, things like harassment and assault of all kinds, from verbal and emotional to physical and psychological, are revolting acts undertaken by petty or callous people. With selfish myopia and a twisted sense of what qualifies as ‘humor’, the perpetrators of such impersonal and belittling acts are not interested in promoting human well-being or making the world a better place; they are only in it for themselves, their advancement or amusement, no matter what the cost is on their victims. While I have seen examples of this in my personal experience, the most prevalent and extant environment in which these acts occur is the Internet. This is the realm of anonymous inhuman verbal assault. It is the realm of the ‘troll’.

Getting trolled or bullied online is something that’s existed since some person saw some other person do something they didn’t agree with, for whatever reason, and decided to use their anonymity to lash out. More recently, death and bomb threats against people based on their gender and opinions and SWAT teams being called down on opponents in a video game have become prominent examples of this endemic problem. But how does one go about addressing or correcting the issue without making it a simple and ultimately pointless act of personal vengeance?

Some people would say that the problem is non-existent or not that problematic. Others say that people – the victims, mostly – need to “grow a thicker skin” or “get over it”. This attitude, itself, is part of the problem, as it demonstrates a callousness towards the very real anguish people go through when they are personally attacked, belittled, harassed, objectified, or threatened. Just because one have never been a victim, or cannot imagine what it is like to be victimized, does not mean that a standard of justice is inconceivable or unobtainable.

The difference between retaliation and retribution is that retaliation is as personal and selfish an act as the assault itself. Retribution is calling upon a greater authority to visit justice upon the offender. In other words, if one party calls another a racial slur in the workplace, and the second party responds in kind or with violence, that is retaliation. If the second party, instead, brings the matter before their supervisor or a higher authority, that is retribution. In a similar vein, a police officer using extreme force on someone (say, someone stopped for a moving violation being arrested, detained, and murdered) getting shot down in the street is retaliation. That officer getting publicly reprimanded and, one hopes, stripped of their authority is retribution.

We need more avenues for retribution when someone is harassed, bullied, or singled out due to their race, gender, orientation, or outlook. We do not have the capacity to completely comprehend the circumstances of the others around us. We do, however, have the capacity to desire an amount of respect for ourselves, and to expect and demand the same for those around us in our lives. When the fear that overtakes a victim keeps them from seeking justice, it falls to us around them, in our communities and society, to counteract their fear (and, in some cases, overcome our own) in the pursuit of justice. And when that respect is undermined, ignored, or outright demolished, we have a duty to act as vectors of retribution upon the offenders. It is the only way we will progress as a species. It is the only way we prove we’re better than mere animals. It is the only way the better world so many dream of and strive for will survive.

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