Starting from where you are now, you choose. And in choosing, you also choose who you will be. If this sounds difficult and unnerving, it’s because it is. Sartre does not deny that the need to keep making decisions brings constant anxiety. He heightens this anxiety by pointing out that what you do really matters. You should make your choices as though you were choosing on behalf of the whole of humanity, taking the entire burden of responsibility for how the human race behaves. If you avoid this responsibility by fooling yourself that you are the victim of circumstances or of someone else’s bad advice, you’re failing to meet the demands of human life and choosing a fake existence, cut off from your own authenticity.
~ Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Café
Well, that was an unexpected break. The technology gods decided I needed another short break and took away my internet connection. I can’t blame them for the broken phone, though. I did that myself by not making sure the unprotected and new phone wasn’t secured in my pocket (which has a zipper for that purpose). It slid right out and hit the concrete pad near the garage, cracking the screen. A small portion of the upper corner was shattered but the pieces remained. I’ve scotched taped it and it’s holding for now. Repair costs are more than replacement so I will get another new phone. *sigh*
There have been a series of small mishaps since I last wrote. The thing is, none of it is important in the grand scheme of life. I don’t like that I have to shell out more money for a phone, but it’s only a phone. An object, and not an object of affection. The waste of it all is bothersome because I am trying hard to be a better human on this planet. Less consuming, more reusing or doing without if it isn’t entirely necessary.
I began a Happy New Year kind of post yesterday morning. It was one in which I wrote that I was beginning to hear and feel whispers of hope. Then, as they say, all hell broke loose. Whatever I was going to write disappeared in an afternoon and evening of insurrection tainted with sedition, lies, conspiracy theories, white supremacy/privilege, and domestic terrorism, all seemingly incited by the President of the United States and his enablers (including but not limited to my representative in Congress). The thing is, many of us saw this coming. We’ve been watching this train-wreck-in-slow-motion for four very long years.
Like many in the U.S., I was horrified by what I watched yesterday. I can’t even begin to list all the things that horrified me but the very worst of all was the vivid display of the reality of the two Americas we live in. I was already well aware of it, and certainly made even more aware of it with the murder of George Floyd. However, to see it play out in the nation’s capitol building was something I don’t have words for. White privilege storming the gates, walking right in and looting. Yesterday and this morning I saw photo after photo, video after video, of right-wing white people destroying or carrying away things from the building. I even saw one man with zip ties. What was he going to do with those? Hold the Vice President or the Democrats hostage???
I am not the only person who thought, who still thinks, that had this been a Black Lives Matter protest, there would have been carnage and rivers of blood running down the capitol steps as the police shot and/or beat the hell out of the people protesting. If you think differently, you are part of the problem. If you think differently, perhaps this will convince you: In June, more than 400 people were arrested in D.C. during the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests. When the Mad President wanted a photo op in front of a church, they cleared the area with rubber bullets and tear gas in an amazingly short period of time. Tens of thousands throughout the U.S. were arrested during the summer protests. As of this writing, only 52 people were arrested last night. 52!!! And 47 of those were arrested for violating curfew. There are plenty of videos showing the terrorists being led out of the building, just walking away as if nothing happened.
The time to be silent, to send out thoughts and prayers and good vibes, has long been over. The Mad President will still be in office over the next two weeks. I dread what the next thirteen days might bring from a man who doesn’t know how to lose, a man who incites his followers towards violence, a man who lies and lies and lies and whose enablers take up those lies, presenting them as truth to people who, sadly, appear to belong to his cult. Maybe nothing will happen. I hope that to be true. But I don’t trust the statement he made regarding the peaceful transition of power. I don’t trust one word out of his mouth or his twitter fingers.
I don’t know much, not for sure. I can speculate, maybe make a few educated guesses based on what I’ve seen in the aftermath. What I do know for sure is that we have a lot of work and a lot of healing to do. I ask you to consider what kind of elder you wish to be? What kind of ancestor? What kind of country and world do you want to leave to future generations?
There are those out there calling for unity and saying that both sides need to tone down the rhetoric. I strongly disagree. Those who were complicit in this need to be held accountable in some way. White people, especially those higher up, are rarely held accountable for their actions when it comes to things like this (and other things, but that’s a different story). The U.S. is a country where “law & order” doesn’t apply to white men in the same was it applies to BIPOC. If you don’t believe me, look for images of the anti-lockdown protests at the Michigan State Capitol. Armed white people, shouting in the faces of the state police who are holding them back from entering the floor of the legislative chamber. Then look for images of force being used on the people participating in the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests. Go ahead. I’ll wait. That’s just a start. There is a lot more you could go look at to prove my point.
As long as white domestic terrorists and white supremacists are not held accountable, this will continue. It might escalate. The fact that there are senators and representatives who are complicit in it makes it worse, in my opinion.
I can’t begin to explain what it is that makes white people, particularly white men, so angry. Oh, I’ve read the news stories and the interviews. They believe their way of life is vanishing. So what? Why do they think that their way of life was or is the best way to live? Yes, yes, yes, I get that change is hard. Change is also inevitable. That doesn’t excuse their behavior. That doesn’t excuse those who should know better knowingly glomming on to the conspiracy theories to line their own pockets or to further their own agendas and power grabs. And I don’t believe we should excuse it. We have been doing that for far too long.
I listened last night to the speeches of those who have now lost the power they had, those who have given tax breaks to the rich, those who have done nothing for the poor, those who have done next to nothing during the pandemic to help people, and those who have enabled and emboldened the mad would-be king in the White House. I listened to their “it’s time to join together” attempts at unity rhetoric. They are the same people who have spent the past decade or so building up partisanship, building up hatred, and continuing this country’s legacy of pitting working class and poor white people against BIPOC.
I am not suggesting yet another form of hatred. I am suggesting that truth is not neutral. We all have assumptions and opinions. There is no neutral. The media and others have used the excuse of “both sides” to avoid truth in the name of neutrality. When you use that excuse, the idea of neutrality, as an excuse to avoid uncomfortable truths, truths that need to be told, then you are avoiding responsibility. I am also suggesting that holding out the olive branch without some sort of accountability will not solve the problem. It is time, in my opinion, to step up. Make the phone calls, send the emails, and if you can’t do that much, at least start with yourself. What do you believe? How do you express it? How can you show up? What do you need to do to unfreeze yourself and engage in the work that needs to be done? And how can that work be done with heart and with compassion?
We need to call things what they are. Stop the euphemisms. Yesterday’s attack on the U. S. Capitol building was an attempted coup. There are Republicans as well as Democrats calling for the 25th Amendment to be invoked. Others are talking impeachment. Again. There are also some who are already trying to change the narrative and place the blame this on an almost non-existent group they call antifa. It should be noted, as well, that even after an attempted coup, 138 representatives and 7 senators still voted against certifying the Electoral College results. The statement that “this is not who we are” is not true. This IS who we are. And we should feel grateful for the light that’s been shined on that because it gives us an opportunity to make much needed change.
We need to drop the “Greatest County on Earth” rhetoric entirely, forever.
We need to stop even saying that we ARE a great country, and start humbly aspiring to do the work to finally become one.
~ Ethan Nichtern
I’ll step down from my soapbox for now. Regular programming will resume soon. I don’t have answers for anybody other than myself. I know what I’ll be doing, especially while there is time to do it. One suggestion I have is to start looking into the folks who are working on stopping the disinformation online. Try the Center for Countering Digital Hate for starters. Click around. They have some good advice and they are trying to follow the funding of sites that promote hate. If you’re interested in racial justice, well, there are a lot of places you can start, but here’s one idea: Anti-Racism Daily on Instagram. It will help you unlearn and learn.
Thank you for stopping by today. Please be safe, be well, and be kind.