Users Who Spiked
PORTLAND, KENOSHA, AND THE TRAGIC DIVISION IN THE UNITED STATES
A few years ago I was becoming increasingly concerned by the diminishing difference between real life and the social media profiles so many of us inhabit far too much of the time. It wasn't too long ago that real-world people began losing real-world jobs over what used to often be fictitious persona. Gone are the days when we could craft our image however we wanted online--an anonymous AOL entity before warp-speed uploads of photos and light-speed transmittal of thought all culminated in the very personal and intimate Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
The creation of online identity has trasformed in a profound way for every generation and has been the subject of speculation for decades. It seems that the most nefarious evolution has not been how we craft the image of ourselves to show the online world, however. Instead, it is the creation, fabrication, and mass-spread of information and ideas from the online world which have come to distort own real-world identity. That is the truly terrifying shift I've seen, anyways.
While it's true that protests and unrest pops up from time to time, and that they have for forever, what we're watching now as we unlock our phones and dive in, ever-numb, to the world-wide-web, is a first as far as I'm aware.
From the moment that cellphone footage of George Floyd's murder made its way to the internet, public discontent has been manifesting across the country and across the globe. Stop, though; those were not the first protests to grace 2020 in the United States of America. Only a month before, we were seeing articles and livestreams of heavily-armed protestors occupying state capitols and government buildings in a rejection of what conservative Americans were told to believe was an oppression of their liberties. Mass shutdowns due to the novel Coronavirus, sweeping mask mandates, and an overabundance of caution was called into question by a president who spreads information from his own...understanding of reality...rather than from a scientific foundation. When John Bolton came out with his book, "The Room Where it Happened," he eplained that the centrifugal force driving the president's action, his policy, and his politics was one thing and one thing only: how each would effect his reelection prospects.
Those same folks who, to this day, rage against masks and the economic effects of closing down bars and barber shops are now showing up en masse to rage against a country tired of seeing absolute injustice carried out against an enormous population of American citizens. As I scrolled through my Twitter feed yesterday afternoon and saw that all eyes were on Portland, I needed to dig a little further. See, I'm not the kind of gal who reads a post or two from my Twitter world (particularly because it's full of equally-as-infuriated liberals and leftists as I am, so, ya know, bias), and slams down the computer to indoctrinate my family on speculative ideas.
I watched some videos, read some first-hand accounts, and delved into a little bit of reporting from both sides. During daylight hours, streamed for the world to see, was a parade of white men and women hanging out of cars and trucks berating protestors who'd shown up in support of yet another black man shot seven times in the back by a police officer.
A boat-load of Trump supporters met just outside of town, from what I gathered, and planned to caravan through Portland and into downtown where protests have been held nightly since George Floyd's murder. They embarked with what is reported to have been a "miles-long" string of pickup trucks, motorcycles, and cars and executed their mission. There were many videos showing violence breaking out at various points before they even got downtown. Fists flew, items were thrown at the vehicles, paintball guns were under commission, and there were even videos of protestors being maced.
The incendiary rhetoric spread by those sharing the videos across the interwebs were stark in their contrast. Some called the counterprotestors "Trump cars," some called them "Proud Boys," some called them "Boogaloo" (the latter are both far-right extremists who use intimidation and violence to spread their political agendas, which consist of war, essentially). Some called the protestors who were on the streets "rioters," some called them "Antifa."
What happened in Portland last night is still pretty unclear, but someone was shot dead during the parade.
Now, let's be clear. These "Trump cars" did not come together and ride into town to throw candy at cheering kids. They're tired of the unrest. They're tired of fires being lit. They're tired of arguments against policemen and against the president they believe to be wholesome and good. They're tired, they're pissed, and they're looking to "flex nuts," as my logger husband would say.
Here's the thing, though, right? The Black Lives Matter movement is a mirror of the same state of mind. Much of our country is tired, dog-tired, of seeing reports of unarmed black men being killed. Black teenagers. Black women. Sometimes in front of their children.
While the white nationalists are pissed because the unrest is infringing upon their cities' businesses, the black men, women, and their allies are infuriated by a system that is not only quite literally killing them--
Here I'll pause, because I hear this argument a lot and it's not wrong...unarmed whites are also killed by police unjustifiably, "it's not just blacks." However, this is misleading. Per capita, blacks are killed disproportionately by police. "Per Capita," in Latin literally means "Per Head," So percentages of deaths to total arrests are being looked at here, but nonetheless, it's a digression and a distraction from the real issues, which are encapsulated by the BLM movement. Evidence is showing that when officers move to arrest or apprehend a person of color, they feel the need to use deadly force more often than it is actually warranted. Even ONE unnecessary death is too many, but there are SO many. When a white person dies at the hands of the authorities who are charged with keeping the peace, it is too much. When an Asian-American dies unjustifiably, just one, too much. The BLM movement is so poignant because it doesn't just stop with unethical deaths. It doesn't just stop at a system which keeps them from climbing a corporate ladder more often than it provides access to said latter. It doesn't just stop at a system in general which actively works to keep the poor impoverished (again, whites are poor as well, but there's that pesky Latin, "per capita," again). IT DOESN'T STOP AT THE DEATH! let me resume my previous thought now:
BUT ALSO, those who are guilty of perpetrating the injustices we saw in Minneapolis, the overkill in Kenosha, namely, the police, are so intertwined with those who are the executors of "justice" that justice is never served for these deaths. Policemen work with prosecutors every day. They're also familiar with judges, who rely on them for expert testimony. They provide facts, they provide security in a courtroom, and a badge comes with prestige that is simply not available to most black men.
What further complicates the BLM issue is White Nationalism. What we saw when a 17-year old white boy, Kyle Rittenhouse, shot three protestors in Kenosha, Wisconsin was a direct consequence of several factors:
1. The President of the United States has used suggestive, inflammatory, and actual outright calls to violence during his reign in office. While campaigning in 2016 we saw Trump rallies fall to violence. We saw Trump cheer it on. We watched with our jaws scraping the floor as he put Americans in boxes based upon their socio-economic status, skin color, gender, political affiliation, and racial background.
2. Our country has seen a major crevasse widening in its polar political division for decades. The president's rhetoric--and I don't see this analyzed nearly enough--has been such that he doesn't simply secure or enthuse his base. That's not enough for him. He stokes fear of his political opponents...not just his opponents, but those who would vote democrat at every level. They are not only liberal anymore, no, they're RADICAL LEFT. Protestors are not simply exercising their 1st Amendment rights, but are instead "thugs" and "punks." At the same time, there are "very good people," on both sides--when it comes to white supremecists.
3. The president has shown how very simple it is to spread hateful disinformation by "Retweeting," videos with Nazi symbolism, among other things, and then shrugging his shoulders and deleting after millions see it. All he has to say is, "I didn't actually watch the whole thing," or, in relation to the far-right conspiracy-spreading group QAnon, "I don't know anything about them." All he supposedly knows is that they support Trump--that's enough for him. They're patriotic. They love their country, he says.
4. Platforms like Facebook make it sickeningly easy to spread disinformation. It used to be that insidious Kremlin hackers would infiltrate our webspace and let loose little pieces of propaganda. This was election meddling. The way the internet has changed, a simple meme with a witty remark becomes the platform upon which a person stakes their political affiliation, but worse, their real-world relationships. I have personally lost relationships because I have no space in my life for willful ignorance. Those who have wandered away surely see my points of view as wickedly incorrect as well. I know sons and daughters who've cut off their parents after venomous name-calling and low-balls because of the love of a president, or lack thereof, and because memes.
5. Those who passionately support the president believe these things to be true: left-of-center are baby killers. Left-of-center are lazy drug abusers who rely on government assistance. Left-of-center are God haters. Left-of-center will take your guns. Left-of-center will take your jobs. Left-of-center will take your paycheck. Left-of-center are brainwashed by media. Media is inherently corrupt. Left-of-center want our country overrun by drug cartel from Mexico and South America. Left-of-center will force your children to be gay. Left-of-center equals libtard. Infer if you'd like there.
6. Those who vehemently reject Trump and those who enable him to fan the above flames believe these things to be true: Right-of-center are hypocrites. Right-of-center voters are brainwashed against their own self-interest. Right-of-center are all angry white men. Right-of-center, angry, white men are largely toothless, suspender-wearing, spit-spewing, bigots. Right-of-center is closed-minded. Right-of-center is totally incapable of thinking critically, including self awareness. Right-of-center always uses The Bible to underscore the reasons they hate left-of-center. Right-of-center is anti-humanity, anti-intellectual, and anti-world-is-round.
There simply doesn't seem to be a middle-ground anymore. Our country is as divided as it has been in living memory (mine, at least, definitely comment with your own experiences--I'm only 33). With every fiber of my being I believe that there is no mending this deep divide without bloodshed. I felt that the country came together after 9/11, but it was very short-lived. I hope we're not, but feel we are, heading toward a civil war. If Joe Biden wins in November, not only will Trump rage against results, but so will his base. If Trump wins in November, left-of-center will not sit down quietly while Trump continues business as usual in the People's House.
For most of the country, Seattle, Kenosha, and Portland are faraway lands. We watch the news, read the news, and watch livestreams and think to ourselves, "wow, the country is out of control," but what we don't realize is that we're all as radical as they are, whatever side we fall on, and the evolution of America may just be survival of the fittest post-November.
Please login to post comments on this story