Present Tense

The oddity of the now is that everything is smoke and mirrors.

Given the great gaslighting of the American people on behalf of our government, otherwise friendly yet dissimilarly minded people are being trained to take bait in exchange for attacks on others. It’s a common series of events: left or right does something rash, politicians and media submit the subject for disapproval, opposition supporters point fingers and articulate shame. A discussion occurs, whether insulated or not, that really does nothing but force people to dig in their heels and name call opposing views, whether or not the opposition was actually present to represent themselves.

My Facebook was all about this last night in light of the events at Berkeley. In response to an event supporting the literal manifestation of Mrs. Garrison, anti-fascist and left protesters started a commotion that lead to some property damage. It was violent and caused some injuries thus leading to an incredible backlash of finger pointing toward the media and free speech politics. It all became a confusing selective memory game of what both sides are hoping for, everything lost in a fight.

I watched as some friends cheered on. I watched as some friends heckled. For the most part, no one agreed and everyone was at each other’s walls, typing in attacks with stage blood. It was dramatic and unnecessary and a moment for everyone—Right and left.—to point fingers at each other. This is the perfect example of the actions of a few people causing the majority to attack each other. The butterfly effect here is more profound than we could have guessed.

The biggest underline in these debates were that it was a moment for anti-left and the “Lock her up!” crowd to double down on everything that is wrong with so called “liberals”: Berkeley, the long storied bastion of liberalism and free speech, carried the burden of being all that the far right hates in the anyone-left-of-center demographic. They were aggressive. They were foreign. They stood in the way of a noted alt-right hero spreading a narrow gospel. They were not their normal snowflaking selves.

This was obviously an opportunity for his supporters and anti-left persons to pipe up with how “disgusted” they were by the goings on. As you see above, that was the prevailing message along with any counter statements being met with, “You are excusing violence.” It’s the same piteous, self-righteous ranting that was heard in response to Richard Spencer getting punched. Yes, punching anyone is wrong but someone with a track record of spreading hate in public is putting themselves out in the open to be ridiculed—and that sometimes causes big reactions like a punch. This is a much pared down version of someone taking violent action on vitriolic conversation in the name of a cause.

The core of this debate gets down to respectability politics. As to not get too deep in the “liberal” aligned sociology prattles, respectability politics is the notion that a group—specifically a minority group—are allowed and respected in society only if they behave in a manner that society accepts. Think of black Americans advancing when nodding their heads and not looking “gangster.” Think of gay people who nod along when queer jokes are made and who never express their homosexuality in public. Think of women who fulfill a duty of being “subservient” and pretty, only to be rewarded when they don’t act like a man. That is respectability politics.

What’s happened in light of Berkeley and in light of any left movement turned right (i.e., violent or crazed like that of sports fans), is that the protesters went against their supposed peaceful ways and that allowed the right and the above friends on Facebook to strip down any sense of the left’s being respected. It allowed an opening for attack based in the supposed hypocrisy of the left. We’ve seen this tactic repeatedly in regards to Black Lives Matter: when the kidnapping or police shooting occurred, the right ran wild with Black Lives Matter being neo-terrorists. Why? Because they broke an unspoken respect for the left and minorities. You can be suppressed and be mad as hell—but don’t make a scene. Once you make a scene, you epitomize what is wrong with “people like you.”

If you are a minority, you know this feeling: it’s the same hand on the shoulder telling you to “calm down” or the remark from a friend on how “dramatic” you are being. It’s Salma Hayek policing Jessica Williams. It’s John Kasich telling gay people to shut up. It’s Matt Damon telling Effie Brown that her thoughts aren’t necessarily true. These are all means to put someone in their place by pointing out their misbehavior as an incorrect means of getting their point across. It’s respectability politics gone wild.

And thus is the present tense, a today where we’re so inclined to grab at each other and be right and be mad and be heard. It’s the modern American way, albeit a tool to turn us against each other. This will not end well if we don’t stop and listen. No one on either side is really walking together: we’re instead walking all over each other, trampling everything, making an ideological Berkeley protest in the states.

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