Is violence the answer to the current situation in the US?

July 25, 2016

You gonna get punched!
You gonna get punched! by Michelle Tribe

I never thought I would be positing a question like this in such a modern age. I had hoped by 2016 we would be beyond the point where protests, nonviolent and otherwise, would be necessary. However, it seems like no matter what we accomplish, change is slow, even stagnant, for what matters most. I’ve been impressed at some aspects of societal change in my lifetime – the growing respect of the LGBT community in the last thirty years; some improvements in diversity and reducing racism – but infuriated by passive acceptance of the following:

The African American community is being humiliated, their lives curtailed in increasing numbers. I started writing this before Alton Sterling. Before Philando Castile. Before the attacks on Dallas police officers. And it doesn’t matter. By the time I finish writing, even before I wake up the next morning, I have no doubt I will hear news of another unarmed (or legally armed) black man being murdered by those who should be protecting them.

I harbor no illusions. These men and women were being taken from us well before the 2010s, 2000s, 1990s, and even 1980s, and even we (meaning white people) would acknowledge things weren’t all sunshine and roses in the 50s and 60s. Yet we seem to believe that somehow all the social change that happened in the 60s and 70s “cured” racism, and everything has been a cake walk for black people since then; more than that, as affirmative action and ridiculous allegations of reverse racism are used as “proof” that the lives of African Americans are not only on par with those of middle class whites, they in fact exceed them due to these pale attempts at reparations.

Never mind that African American men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men of the same age, that police murdered more than a hundred black men last year, that they are disproportionately targeted for drug offenses, that many are expected to repress their culture for fear of being a societal outcast at best, feared and attacked at worst… all these facts pale in comparison to the outright cries of denial of racism’s existence, that our society is exactly how it’s supposed to be and pointing out these issues is a problem in and of itself.

As I mentioned, I began to write this before news on Dallas broke, but still came to an unsettling speculation: maybe the only way to stop police officers from taking a life in cold blood – whether this is due to inexperience and itchy trigger fingers, subconscious racial bias, or clear hatred – is the knowledge that they will be murdered.

I don’t suggest imagining this lightly, nor am I advocating it. I’m merely saying: what has playing by the rules and doing everything right accomplished for people of color? Charles Kinsey was shot lying on the ground with his hands in the air. How less of a threat can someone be, short of masking his skin color…? If you’re just as likely to be shot while running away, reaching into your pockets, being truly threatening, or lying on the ground, then what’s the point in trying at all? Every time a police officer approaches, it seems the only recourse is to start recording and wait for the shots to come.

Maybe the only way for African Americans to be safe is just to leave the US.

Donald Trump… There really doesn’t need to be an explanation behind this. I honestly thought conservatives would have prevented his nomination at last week’s RNC (at least there was an attempt… some faith in humanity restored). Then again, I also thought he was never going to be the frontrunner. The worst part is: he’s still newsworthy. Talk shows and networks are all over him, providing endless coverage of his idiotic, racist, sexist, and outdated views, and salivating, awaiting the moment when something even more despicable comes up. Even Tony Schwartz, the man who in all respects pushed Trump into the spotlight, can provide personal insights into the man’s behavior and no one blinks.

Schwartz tells us everything we need to know about Trump, and why nothing – not allegations of sexual harassment, not mocking the disabled, not even his own incestuous remarks about his daughter – has blocked or even slightly impeded his presidential run so far.

“Trump didn’t fit any model of human being I’d ever met. He was obsessed with publicity, and he didn’t care what you wrote.”

For most people (politicians, anyway), when a scandal comes to light, there are two choices: resign, or confess and see if you can ride it out. Trump chooses neither; he denies facts with such vehemence that his supporters believe him instead of what’s right in front of their eyes. I’ve personally seen this with religious fanatics, with sometimes dangerous results, but bringing feelings to the forefront of any argument takes matters to whole new level (advance to 5:54):

You can reason with someone who looks at facts. You can even reason with devout religious people who look at facts, because they still have to live in the real world. But you can’t try to find a middle ground with someone who chooses to believe something when evidence to the contrary is right in front of him; that kind of reasoning has been used in cases of sexual assault, because the attacker felt his victim wanted his attention. I have no doubt these rapists “felt” they were right… but that doesn’t make them any less wrong.

Trump feels he is popular. He feels like he is not a racist. He feels his views and leadership are what the world needs. There can be no one more dangerous than that: someone who will not listen to others or facts staring him right in the face.

Gun control is, apparently, an impossible political feat. We’ve already forgotten about the mass shooting in Orlando leaving 50 members of the LGBT community dead. Black Lives Matter and Trump sneak into the news on occasion, but gun control arguments only exist immediately after people die; if this weren’t the case, cable news would be focused on something other than the RNC and DNC. Instead, we get pablum.

I originally wanted to write this piece in response to the the Senate rejecting all gun control laws and the Democrats’ response by staging a sit-in in the House. It’s surprising how bipartisan the issue actually is, at least in terms of values; in practice, more Republicans have to kowtow to the NRA to fund their campaigns. And yet, despite being witness to hundreds of mass shootings, very little has changed:

– Those on the terror watch list can buy guns
– Anyone who wishes to bypass loose background check laws can purchase firearms at gun shows
– Assault weapons are still legal

Politically, the sit-in was the strongest action taken to try and pass gun control in the last twenty years, since President Clinton was able to pass a ban on assault weapons. If that sounds pathetic, it is. What is there left to try, that will actually work? Another filibuster? Another sit-in? An executive order?

How would violence potentially improve or worsen these situations?

For African Americans, the answer is pretty cut and dried:

Put your hands up? Get shot.
Lie on your back? Get shot.
Tell the officer you have a legal firearm? Get shot.
Commit the crime of challenging an officer’s authority? Get shot.

Police officers already assume black people are threats by merely existing. Though some are concerned that increased resistance would only result in more shootings, something has to be done other than “playing by the rules.” The rules don’t work if you’re black.

Trump supporters regularly use violence and intimidation at rallies, but the man himself hasn’t had the opportunity to be a victim of what he’s stirred up in people. Even when Trump was the target of a 19-year-old openly admitting he wanted “to kill Trump”, he laughed it off and told security to remove the boy. With cries like “lock her up”, Trump and his supporters believe they’re justified in doing whatever they see fit. Sanity needs to push back.

A larger group of conservative politicians needs to be the victim of gun violence before anything will change. Not one – however high profile – not a small group. A LOT of them. Because right now, even having fifty Americans gunned down at once doesn’t change a thing.

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