I spent hours Saturday watching different news organizations live stream the buildup to what eventually took place during the rally and counter protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Yesterday morning I awoke to a newsfeed filled with disgust at what had taken place, a disgust that began calling for boycotts, protests, petitions, and actions purportedly to fight hate; yet I was struck by the sense of these calls to arms as having been written and motivated by a fear that somehow the beliefs of the other will cause harm to the self coupled with a righteous anger that the other exists in the world in this day and age. Today I woke to reports of rioting and violence elsewhere in the country because of what was seen Saturday.
I am not at all condoning the actions taken by either side in Charlottesville nor am I writing in support of either viewpoint. Nothing could be further from my mind at this moment than taking sides in the arguments made and actions taken over the weekend. However, I am condoning the right of free people to think freely, no matter how offensive I find the viewpoint, as long as those thoughts and views do not cross the line into infringing upon the natural rights of others.
Natural rights… Remember those? Those grand ideals upon which our nation was founded?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”
Where were these ideals found in the hateful and violent actions taken by both rally-goers and protesters Saturday? Where are they in the calls to silence those with whom one disagrees? Where are they in the calls to close businesses whose goods or services are solicited by those who think differently?
I watched early on as rally-goers walked quietly past the protesters, some of whom I saw throw coffee upon, spit at, verbally assault, and physically attack the rally-goers having never had a conversation with them. I saw the car purposefully driven into the crowd by a man we now know is obsessed with the Nazis. I saw a member of ANTIFA punch a woman in the face for recording the events following that crash that killed a protester. I saw a frenzied indignation erupt in the crowds of protesters when some of the rally-goers performed the Nazi salute. I saw both sides accuse the light militia that was present of taking sides, supporting one viewpoint but not the other, when in reality they were there standing between the groups, making themselves a barrier in an attempt to allow all others present to exercise their right to free speech no matter how offensive.
Where was the moral high ground in either side by taking violent action against the other? What justification could there be to become physical against those with whom they disagreed ideologically? How did either side expect to change the minds of the other by becoming enraged, full of hate, and incapable of discourse that will both hear to understand why the other feels the way they do and respond to find shared logic and ideals, common ground that can be used as a stepping stone to discourse, mutual understanding, and enlightenment?
Fear leads to anger.
Anger leads to hate.
Let me say again, I do not write to take any sides and I have not followed these events to judge one position more righteous than the other. I believe strongly in the ideals our society was founded on, so much so that I have worked for more than a decade to support the military men and women who are serving or have served, their families, and their spouses because it is their duty to be the watchers on the wall defending these ideals. My husband, the first naturalized son of immigrants to this nation, lost his leg defending these ideals! So I sat watching the behaviors of those present, I listened quietly, withholding judgement so that I could hear and learn the reasons why each faction was present and why they believed and felt as they did. Because I listened to understand not to feel, I was able to hear that which united both dialogues rather than only focusing on that which separated them.
As I sat listening to what individuals from both sides had to say I found the most remarkable thing: they were expressing the same feelings of fear and frustration at being discounted and dismissed because of their beliefs, their lifestyle choices, the color of their skin, their feelings about the rights of people to be safe and secure, and their ethnic and cultural history. I heard the same rhetoric from the white nationalists that I have heard from Black Lives Matter these last 5 years except that each supports their race, their skin tone. This remarkable dichotomy begs the questions:
Does being pro-black or pro-white necessarily mean you are anti the other?
Does being proud of your heritage and desirous of a world where you are not discriminated against or marginalized mean that you are a racist or bigot against that which is different?
The answer to both of these is no; one does not necessitate the other. Are there those in whom both are true? Yes… But there are also people who believe the world is flat despite centuries of science proving otherwise. Just because these so called Flat Earthers exist, should the rest of us be worried about sailing off the edge of the map and dropping into oblivian? Should we worry about sea serpents coming to swallow up the Navy because a handful of people choose to put logic, reason, and the proof gathered in the last 80 years of aerospace science to the side to believe that the world is flat? It doesn’t seem logical or rational, does it? Why should the beliefs of this small group of people threaten our sense of safety in understanding what we do about how the universe works? Do we need to silence them? Do we need to ban speaking about all that we know so as not to offend them or ban them from speaking their beliefs because someone else might decide their logic is reasonable? Do we need to lock them up or persecute them because of their dismissal of science and reason? No. Their beliefs in no way threaten the rest of us.
What about the people that believe the pyramids were built by aliens? How about people who believe themselves to be vampires? And what about the people who believe every conspiracy theory and who really wear tin-foil hats to protect themselves from mind control? Should we feel threatened and afraid enough to do violence against them, to demand silence from them, and to otherwise choose to lack control ourselves because of their beliefs? No. What harm are they doing by BELIEVING something no matter how irrational or antiquated we believe it to be? What about their feeling insecure enough in the world to want to share their beliefs with others in an attempt to find security in knowing they aren’t alone in their beliefs and fears is so threatening that they must be silenced? It doesn’t seem reasonable, does it, to attack others for those beliefs because to the rational human adult looking at the people who believe such things it is easy to dismiss beliefs we see as fallacy:
Our logic dictates that their beliefs are unfounded and incorrect. We are secure in knowing our safety is not threatened by these small factions of believers so we can dismiss their worries and beliefs without hesitation and sleep well knowing that here be no monsters.
Why is it then that once we see a faction of people whose political or ideological beliefs are to us equally irrational and antiquated that we would allow ourselves to be worked up into a frenzy of anger and frustration that will justify hateful actions and words? Why can we dismiss those who believe the world is flat but we cannot dismiss those who believe their race shouldn’t be marginalized?
Hate breeds hate.
It is unhealthy and dangerous in any free society for any group to be silenced or for their beliefs to be policed, no matter how abhorrent their views, provided they may still remain views that do not infringe upon the rights of others. This is what our modern society is supposed to be based upon and when people for any reason give into the idea that others should not be allowed to believe whatever they choose and should be punished for their thoughts, we will lose what progress we have made as human beings.
Make no mistake about it, once we cross the line between righteous anger and a moral disapproval of the views of others to hate we are no different than the worst of those with whom we disagree.
What’s more, when we speak and act in hate and anger, even when our anger is justified, we do not serve to bring the opposition to our way of thinking, we only push them farther away and alienate them further, chipping away little by little what common ground can be found until a wide gulf separates the us from the them.
The farther into hate you move, the more extreme your beliefs become, and just as hate breeds hate, extremism begets extremism.
Have you not wondered why 50 years after the civil rights movement people are advocating for all black schools, all black spaces on college campuses, and an all black political party? The civil rights movement was, among other things, a means to end the segregation of races yet now some of those who would once have sought an end to the segregation are advocates for the same. Why? Years of anger about feeling marginalized, passed over, and underprivileged fueling an anger that blamed the privelage they perceived that others must inherently have as a virtue of their melanin turned to hate; years of being told that regardless of your achievements if someone who has achieved less but whose skin is darker applies for the same job or school you will be passed over, years of being blamed for the slavery of centuries past because of the fairness of your skin, years of being told that no matter what your beliefs or life experiences are you are a racist who lives a life of privelage and are unable to be discriminated against because your skin cells do not produce a large degree of melanin.
What do we do as human beings when we feel we are being attacked, when we feel we are the target of another’s anger or hate? We push back.
Despite everything that was achieved in the civil rights movement, we see our society falling backward into the same kinds of beliefs and ideals that came before, not because we as human beings have devolved but because we have forgotten about the natural laws our society was founded on and we have allowed fear, anger, and hatred to seep into our minds and hearts and to then begin to dictate our actions and our words until we are convinced it is altogether right and appropriate to police the thoughts and beliefs of others and to silence those with whom we disagree.
When in human history have you seen a society hell-bent on policing the thoughts of others continue to flourish?
The silencing of those with whom we disagree is what sentenced Socrates to death by hemlock for thinking differently than the establishment. It is what caused the Romans to persecute and put to death Christians who spoke of a King of Kings above the emperor. It is what motivated the Moors to wreak their havoc upon the Mediterranean and the crusaders to fight back against them. It is that which motivated many a medieval king to put to death the opposition even when the opposition was in the form of a child from a different lineage. It is the same belief that has justified the oppression of others since humankind first walked the earth, even into our modern world where Islamic radicals call for the silencing of infidels for believing differently than they including the rape, murder, and enslavement of those who worship the same god yet who do so differently. It is one of the beliefs that those who founded our nation rejected.
As a member of a free society wherein you are granted the rights entitled to you under natural law, do not seek to limit those same said rights of others simply because you find them offensive, for doing so will only serve to alienate them further and add fuel to their fire, thereby pushing others to their ways of thinking and pushing them father from yours.
Seeking to limit and police the beliefs and feelings of those with whom you disagree will only further the hate and violence you abhor while perpetuating a further decline in the peace and prosperity of the society in which we live.