to my friends

To my liberal/progressive/democrat/etc friends:

Trump won the presidency, and that is bad. There’s a vocal minority of racists and nationalists feeling empowered, and that’s bad. I get it. Everyone is very mad, and they’re not gonna take it anymore. The anger is overwhelming, such that I’ve more or less bowed out of social media, because the feedback loop of angry rhetoric was deafening.

I made the mistake of dipping my toe into the outrage firehose this weekend and was appalled, in particular, to see video of an unprovoked act of violence being shared with glee. I saw my friends defending the act and encouraging it. I saw the same people taking pains (incidentally, mostly via outright fabrication) to find other things this person wrote or said to justify an unprovoked act of violence.

I’ve seen calls for increasing violence, rationalized by the trope that killing Nazis is good. This is what Nazis look like. They took up arms to conquer the world and exterminate entire races. Killing them to prevent this is a reasonable reaction. Applying the label “nazi” to someone whose ideas you don’t like in order to rationalize violence is not.

When you look for excuses to apply a label to someone in order to rationalize violence, you’ve lost the moral highground.

Our political lexicon is rife with violent rhetoric, from even the simplest call to “fight” for what one believes in. I’ve seen this rhetoric amplified and conflated with calls for “action” that are hard to read as anything but thinly veiled incitement to violence. There’s talk of “resistance”. “Not my president”. The unpleasant reality is that Donald Trump is your president. He won the presidency via the same institutions of this democratic republic as every other president before. You don’t have to be happy about it, but escalating anger to violence because you don’t like the outcome of your institutions is dangerous and disgusting. This is old and well-trod territory. Excusing and condoning violence against speech is the opposite of progressive: it’s the tool of reactionary proto-fascism.

Ken white said everything I want to say already, but I want to make this personal appeal on record and not via some flippant sharing of a link.

I implore you, in these strange times, to take a step back and engage in some self-reflection and, with all due respect, pull your heads out of your asses. We’re only a week away from the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. Please listen to him:

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence, you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.