Slow Road to Revolution
Daniel Hill of the St. Louis Riverfront Times quoted a term the other day on Facebook that's been marinating in my psyche ever since. A cold civil war. Let that hit you. It's exactly what's taking place in the United Stated of America as I type this. Half of us wear masks in public to protect those around us, half refuse to wear them because they're selfish and misguided assholes. Half of us think universal healthcare is an obvious solution whereas the other half somehow side with insurance companies and big pharma. Half of us think that our president is the biggest moron to ever walk the Earth, and the other half thinks he's smart?
Of course there is actual violence we can point to if we want to poke holes in the cold civil war statement, but nothing on the level of all out war - a thing that a lot of our loudest talkers think they want when they use terms like "revolution". It's sexy when it rolls off the tongue and when it's on a screen in front of you, but let's be very real: The justifiably angry "we" would not win that war. We would be disposed of faster than a middle aged suburban white lady calls the cops on a black man in the park. They have tanks and world-beating weapons. And lots and lots of money to buy more tanks and world beating weapons should they need to. All we have is spunk and anger. We've allowed our enormous, unspeakably shady monster of a government to get to a place where contempt for citizens and openly cruel intentions are no longer hidden. War is extremely profitable for those who facilitate it. The senators and congressmen get their pockets lined with gold for supporting weapons manufacturers and legislation aimed at further devaluing human life via deregulation of gun laws.
So if a big, Hollywood scripted revolution isn't even remotely close to feasible, where does that leave us? What's the action? How do we get people who are clearly unhappy with the way things are to be more radical? I stopped attending my political science class at Drake University in the middle of a semester because my useless 25 year old professor was "teaching" straight out of the book we all had to purchase - chapter by chapter - with no outside input or tangible effort to provide texture at an $18,000 a year borderline Ivy League institution, so perhaps I'm the wrong person to answer my own questions. But I'm going to try, or at least air out some grievances in hopes that I might provoke even the slightest action from an otherwise comfortable person.
Comfort is really what keeps us in this dark chapter of history. White people have enjoyed generations of comfort, afforded to us by the rule of white supremacy. When I say white supremacy, I'm not just talking about the blatant kind - burning crosses and hooded rednecks, etc. I'm talking about the everyday subtleties and micro-aggressions that keep the wheels of racism spinning. The idea of "Karen" comes from stark reality, sitting on $2000 couches in suburban sprawl, safely separated from anyone who doesn't look like them. It's a dystopian bubble and Karen is a monster. She acts like she casually wants a better world for all when she comments on her cousin's Facebook post about something something Trump something (even though she voted for the bastard). She even went as far as to walk a block in the women's march before retreating into a Starbucks because comforting herself with a mocha frappe is easier than truly giving one single iota of a fuck about affecting change. She knows that she'll be going home to her asshole husband who wears a maga hat on golf outings and tells racist jokes to his friends while she cooks him dinner. She laughs at those jokes. Somewhere inside, she knows they're disgusting but goddamn is her life comfortable. She will probably vote for Trump again this fall because she's spineless and Biden (who is a direct result of comfort-level politics) claims to value black people, but she won't say it publicly under the guise of something archaic like "who you vote for is private". Her guiding principle is fear of her easy life being disrupted and her comfort bubble developing a leak. Fuck Karen. Karen is a pandemic.
Fear of disruption is the reason so many cops get away with murder. The world we've built here makes it possible for the culture of violence against people of color to exist. But what would it look like if our trusted law enforcers were to be held actually accountable, my god the world would go into chaos and BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Wrong. The chaos is already here. If we held these shit fucks accountable for fucking murder, there would be way less of it and way more of the good people who get into law enforcement to actually protect and actually serve their communities. Perhaps it would provide hope to oppressed people, opportunities for equity. George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown Jr, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Ahamaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin - they'd all still be alive. If there was fear of harsh and direct retribution for the killing of black people, THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE FOR EVERYONE. Not just people of color. Everyone. I'd be willing to bet gang violence would decrease dramatically, opportunities for economic growth would find their ways into under-served neighborhoods, and we'd see more people of color get voted into positions of influence because their communities would become more engaged in the democratic process - and white people wouldn't be shaking in their boots at the thought of not having old Uncle Joe calling the shots. These killer cops need to be prosecuted and jailed - full stop.
Yes, yes we elected Barack Obama twice and that goes to show you the power of a movement. But we didn't follow through with that energy and make sure he had a legislative branch that wouldn't fight him every step of the way. People didn't get the promised sweeping change literally a week after he took office, so they stopped giving a shit about voting again and let the good ol' boys keep the power. Follow through is equally as important as the initial victories. Disruption is not comfortable and it is not immediate - not when we have to approach it via the slow play. A modern revolution must be stuck with every step of the way in a pair of wet cement coated shoes. We're not going to take up arms and win any battles, dummies. You have to stay engaged and you have to vote for progressive candidates EVERY SINGLE CYCLE - en masse. If everyone who is fed up with the way things are - especially the legions of comfortable white people with actual fucking compassion - actually threw themselves into supporting candidates from their communities who want to fight for civil rights, we'd never lose. It takes an army, pun intended. We have that. Believe it or not, there are way more of us than there are of them. We just have to get more of "us" to fucking ENGAGE.
To quote the great poet Gil Scott Heron - "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". It will not be wrapped in a box and delivered to you by Amazon. It will not have a soundtrack that is easy on the ears, nor a visual aspect that is comfortable on the eyes. It will not be a part of the Marvel cinematic universe and it will not include a red carpet and a weighty statue that fits nicely on a prominent mantle in your Malibu home. Each and every one of us (I'm talking to you, whitey) requires a self revolution. First, we crucially need to listen, and listen intently, to people of color - without allowing our minds to search for the perfect (most likely defensive) response. We need to understand that institutional racism has been woven into our fabric and none of us are innocent. No matter how financially poor you are, no matter where you grew up or where you currently reside - if you're white, you benefit from white privilege. You must know in your heart that the same asshole cop who killed George Floyd by suffocating him with a knee to the neck would not have done the same thing to you. You MUST know that.
When I encounter a police officer out in the wild, I am completely at ease - despite the fact I don't exactly look like Brad from the suburbs. I have a shitload of visible tattoos, a seemingly permanent world-weary facial expression and enough clandestine stories to tell with my eyes that I can't keep track of them - but I'm also a white guy (in spite of the Cherokee and Roma (aka gypsy) lineage in my family tree, I still present as white because I'm also Irish. That's what matters). However, my black friends will tell you a very different story. It seems no matter how far removed from the "scary black gangster" trope a person of color is, a visceral fear of losing their life is a common occurrence when encountering a cop. It's been proven to black people time and time again that nothing else matters more than the color of their skin. Can you imagine? Truly, think about how that might feel. You're born into innocence with an enviable amount of melanin in your skin and forced to grow up navigating a constant barrage of microaggressions coming from white people who aren't that far removed from their slave master ancestors. You're treated like a second class citizen who should just feel lucky to be here in the land of the "free". Most of the opportunities to get over in the world that seem accessible are coming from the streets, where everyone feels the same weight you do. A weight that is heavy enough to make anything else you're being told you should care about seem like a waste of time. No money is being directed into your neighborhood, but the white neighborhood a mile down the street just got fancy new street lamps with wires that run underground so as not to disturb the historic charm.
The politicians with the most power always say that pouring money into already wealthy pockets trickles down to benefit everyone else, but we all know that's bullocks. Their friends are wealthy and powerful and they want to hook them up with more wealth and power in order to enhance their own wealth and power, leaving the rest of us - especially communities of color - out in the cold. They continue holding that power because they pander to poor and rural communities with talk of God and small government. I'll save my scathing remarks on religion for another day, but my point here is that they aren't god fearing, nor do they give a shit about keeping the government small - but these are hot button issues (you can go ahead and add abortion to this list too) and they know they'll secure millions of votes just by pretending to value these things with a wink and a falsified southern accent. I could go on for days about how most of the rural parts of America are still living in the 1950's and seem to take pride in outright ignorance, but the fact remains that we, as more progressive and forward thinking people, have continued allowing this to occur by simply not showing up to the polls and by accepting the ignorant shortcomings of our neighbors because it's easier than arguing with them. Perhaps we need to get our hands dirty and fight fire with fire (i.e. misinformation and foreign interference). Perhaps we need to drag the social media warriors yelling about oligarchs and conspiracies out to the polls on election days and force them to make a real life decision that will benefit others. I don't know what to do at this point as long as we have this two party system, and the party that is supposedly for the people keeps shooting itself and the entire country in the damn foot. Oh you don't like Trump? Well here's a different old white guy with a questionable history who says wild ass shit. Vote for him ok! Great! I'm going to, but goddamn it.
Without equity, there will be no peace. And there shouldn't be peace until people of color get equal footing. It's INSANE that such a small percentage of killer cops actually get prosecuted for murder. Truly astonishing. Until justice finds it's way to the families and friends of those who suffer at the hands of people like Derek Chauvin and Darren Wilson, we need to speak loudly and clearly so that no-one will be comfortable. Fuck Karen's couch. Fuck a frappuccino. It's way overdue for white people to hold each other accountable and force this shit to change. It's our mess and we have to be the ones to clean it up.
Thank you for reading. Rest in peace to George Floyd. May your family find the justice they deserve.