Sal BiaseComment

On American Political Violence

Sal BiaseComment
On American Political Violence

Dear Reader,

I love you. No strings attached, no stipulations or requirements to meet. I love you regardless of your skin color, your sexual preferences, your political ideologies. It does not matter to me if you are black or white, rich or poor, a sinner, a convict, an atheist, a Christian, a Nazi, ISIS member, social worker, activist, or anything else; simply by virtue of your own humanity I care about your happiness, hopes, dreams, and well being; and I offer you that love without expectations of love in return. No matter whether or not I agree with your opinions or beliefs and regardless of whether I believe you to be radical in your ideologies or extreme in your practice, I will extend to you my love, a simple offering of good will, as best I can.

Love is imperfect because it is human. Humanity and the imperfections that come with it are something special we all carry with us. We all have fears and doubts and biases that contribute to the character that constitutes every man, woman and child in this country and on this planet. We share this home, we share this experience and we share this identity. The simple miracle of being unites us as a people regardless of border, of background and of any division placed between us as people.

It is with all this in mind that I write this post. I type this letter to you personally in hopes that while you read it, you may feel that connection with me as another person, as lost and afraid, as confused and frightened by what is happening at this present moment, in America. There is nothing about this message that is intended to upset, offend or harm anyone, so please consider my words in good faith.

Racism must be condemned in all forms wherever it shows itself. A society, such as ours, that has the principle ‘all men are created equal’ as a cornerstone of its foundation can not stand when bigotry uses race as a means to perpetrate harm, instill fear and cause violence. I have written before about the need to change how we discuss politics with one another. I have, in the past, condemned political violence. These instances of fringe groups causing trouble and pushing a wedge further between the two true political factions that exist in our nation may be a harbinger of what is to come if we don't refocus our political lenses on what is truly important.

Identity politics, dismissive vapid arguments, generalizations and labels are all contributing factors to the unrest we see in the political arena. Many Americans, on both sides, feel they have no voice in our current system, but the crisis we face is not a lack of voices, but a lack of ears willing to listen and minds willing to construct a thoughtful response.

The incident in Charlottesville that occurred over the weekend is nothing short of a tragedy. It is an affront to the politically inclined and reasonable citizens everywhere, but it is not an event that occurred in isolation or spontaneously with no warnings at all. Political violence has been occurring at political rallies since well before the election and it is only increasing in frequency and severity. This crisis IS NOT THE PRODUCT OF WHITE SUPREMACY.

If we are being thoughtful, politically minded people who care about the well being of the common good of our society, we need to be honest about what is causing this unrest. Simply put, the violence we are seeing isn't the work of the KKK, of Donald Trump, or any one individual or group anywhere in the nation. The reality is, we are all to blame.

That is why solving these problems, uniting people and overcoming these manufactured divisions is so hard. It requires every individual to look into the mirror and take responsibility. Politics is not a sport.  Politics is governance. As such, it is also a constant battle of ideas. To govern effectively individuals must engage in rigorous debate and reach meaningful compromises, but in our society of modern America, those things do not occur.  

Respect, understanding and patience are all virtues that have been lost in our political arena. Empathy is completely missing when our two sides engage in discussion. Today, reason is tossed aside and replaced with raw emotion and now, more frequently, blind rage. Trump didn't create this, you may argue he used these conditions to his advantage in order to achieve power, but the conditions have been cultivated for many years and we have all helped put them into place.

No one should fear violent retribution for expressing their opinions, political or otherwise. America is a place founded with the intention of protecting all people regardless of their systems of belief. Yet, here we are mourning the loss of a young life after a political march devolved into chaos. How can we heal these wounds and close these divides?

Love. Pure and simple. It conquers all and that is not simply a cliche. Be deliberate in your thoughts, in your words and in your actions and offer to others what you expect in return. Compassion and kindness. When you engage with someone who disagrees with you be willing to rise above the frustrations that come along with unproductive argument. Try and modify your perspective to see where the other side is coming from and never forget the simple truth that we are all human beings doing our best with what information is available to us.

In the event you come across an individual so hateful, vile, despicable and crass who holds opinions that can only be described as destructive, show love. Express your informed, clear and well-reasoned arguments to them as best you can and if compromise or commonality can't be reached, show love. If they come at you with violence hatred and vitriol, show love. When the temptation arises to abandon discussion and engage in violence yourself, show love and just walk away.

Racism, sexism, or any other type of discrimination or bigotry can never win here in America because those are positions completely devoid of love. They are ideologies built upon hatred and fear and as such can only appeal to those capable of such hatred and fear themselves. But when you inform yourself, care deeply for others, and express your views with a humility and understanding of our relationship to each other as humans, you naturally show love and win the argument; and with it, you win the hearts and minds of many others.

This is not an easy thing to ask. No one will succeed 100% of the time, but if we all make a conscious effort to see past the divisions used to keep us apart then we have the chance to revolutionize our nation and reinvigorate political discussion here at home. The other option is continued violence and mutually assured destruction. It is up to you to decide.

With love,

Sal of the Earth