Still Learning To See

…and another

My friend, Sean Beckett, wrote a piece this week that I also want to share here. The first sentence references his mom. Sadly she died in September, a soldier who had long worked to help vets exposed to the toxic burn pits resulting from the war in Iraq. As he says, she could well have been sent to Washington, DC this week.

Long ago I registered as a conscientious objector and have spent all of my life doing what I can to turn the tide from the organized warfare the world is fraught with toward more peaceful options. Sean asks that we focus on what he sees as the most important issue right now: getting through the next few weeks, months, years, without more of the crazy violence the came to a head last week. I agree, even if it means bringing more soldiers to the capital. I pray no one will be injured, that all will remain relatively peaceful as we find our way forward.

Enough. I feel what Sean has to say is worth sharing here:

“If the timing were different, my mother could have been deployed to the U.S. Capitol today instead of Iraq. And she could have found some members of our own extended family in the same mob she was protecting our democracy against.

To wrap my head around that insane reality, I’m breaking my usual silence to share some of my unsolicited and non-expert opinion on the events of this last week. If it goes reasonably smoothly, I may even try it again. And before you get too comfortable or uncomfortable, know that I’m pointing fingers in a few directions here.

I’m not exactly sure what response I’m inviting by posting this. I usually try to keep my own platforms relatively centered so as not to alienate those who don’t agree with me. My strategy has long been to persuade others through slow and cumulative exposure to new ideas around wildlife conservation, environment, photography, etc. But this week is not the time for slow persuasion, it is the time to trade silence for solidarity, and the time to denounce those who remain unpersuadable.

We who support a liberal democracy have 4 more days to screw our heads on correctly, or else last week’s events at the capitol will happen again, and worse.

Comparing BLM Protests and the Capitol Insurrection is unhelpful right now. Comparing the response of Law Enforcement at both events is even more unhelpful. It’s not wrong, but it’s unhelpful. If your biggest problem with the insurrection was one of white supremacy, then you need to refocus your attention for the next week. To clarify, this event was positively dripping with white supremacy among the insurrectionists, the Inciter in Chief, and the response of some police officers. But a prerequisite issue needs our immediate and undivided solidarity: the fabric of our democracy is on the cusp of a violent unravelling in a week or less.

The deeply flawed logic comes from both sides.

From the right, it’s “where was your lefty media when BLM was looting Portland?” First, can’t we agree that the looting and property damage in Portland was also bad? I don’t understand why there is so much airtime treating these as an “either-or.” More importantly, these events were wildly different things. The BLM protests-turned-riots were many things. But they were not an intentional and violent assault on the halls of congress, incited by the president, in an attempt to overturn a fair, peaceful, and legally certified election.

This was not a protest. Well, it was until it wasn’t. There may be a hazy line between “protesting” and “storming,” but if you’ve broken down the doors to the US Capitol Building in an attempt to threaten the lives of our elected lawmakers and undermine the core processes of our democracy… you might be an insurrectionist. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re carrying a gun, but it doesn’t help your case if you are* (*that has nothing to do with my opinion on guns). If she wasn’t promptly evacuated, Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t be alive today*. (*that has nothing to do with my opinion of Nancy Pelosi)

Friends on the far right: if you found yourself cheering for the hanging of the Vice President, as in Mike Pence, as in one of the staunchest party loyalists since Day 1… please take a moment to step back and ask yourself how far to the edge your “You Are Here” arrow is found on the map of our political landscape. At the very least, you’ll find yourself squarely outside the boundaries of the Republican Party.

From the left, the argument I’ve been hearing is “see, law enforcement only acts violently against nonwhites.” I don’t disagree that if these actors were black, there’d probably be a lot more dead people right now. But to use the insurrection as a case example in police nonviolence is to claim that the law enforcement response in this case was appropriately lenient. It was not.

If you have a social media platform, or any other public platform, you can either be using it to condemn the insurrectionists, or you can be using it to condemn white supremacy within law enforcement. Both are real. But this week, please ask yourself whether you are spending your social media bandwidth blaming the cop, or the person wearing the Camp Auschwitz t-shirt on the other side of his pistol.

Law enforcement needs our support in order to protect our entire system on January 17th and 20th. Our police and our national guard, however flawed and steeped in implicit and overt racial biases, are our sworn protectors. There are many exceptions, but they are exceptions. By and large these are our friends and neighbors and mothers who are scared about what may unfold in the next week, because they will be the ones with guns pointed at them.

These people are simply the only line of defense standing between armed cultists and the continuation of our democracy. I fully support them, and I support their authorized use of deadly force to stop those who show up to cause harm.

Unless you’re planning on taking up arms and putting yourself in harm’s way at the national and state capitol yourself (please don’t), let’s recognize that our law enforcement and national guard have the weight of our democracy on their shoulders, and could use some solidarity right about now.

If we do this right, we’ll have the next four years of an executive and legislative branch that will be more sympathetic to equity and justice (and the erasure of their opposites) than perhaps ever before. If we do this wrong, January 21st may be unrecognizable.

I know that supporting law enforcement is a practically taboo thought for some, especially when there are insurrection sympathizers and overt racists among them. But let’s think long-range: When sailors challenge their officers and captain at sea, it is in everyone’s best interest to not sink the ship in the process.

In another great analogy I heard today about this moment, “it’s possible to have cancer and heart disease at the same time.” If we’re in the middle of a heart attack, it is not the day to focus on the cancer.”

Thank you Sean. Thank you all for reading this with as open a mind as you can muster. Now IS the time to move on to learn from the past, not just the past four years, but from our long history of this experiment called the United States of America.

This entry was published on January 15, 2021 at 9:15 am and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “…and another

  1. Martha Snell on said:

    Thank you for finding and sharing this piece by your friend Sean. He wades through the complexity of this past week, these past four years, and reaches the other side safely. His strategies are wise.

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