I had one of those confusing conversations with a friend after one of my previous posts. He may indeed read this post, so I will leave his name out of it out of respect to him and anyone else who might share his views. The argument was over violence and who is to blame for violence. While everyone is still focused on the election, the issue of violence sits uncomfortably in the background. We know that as soon as someone is declared the winner there will be protesting.
I had a few thoughts on that. My first thought is that I have participated in only one protest before and it was for something I really didn’t believe in. I was required to do it for work since I worked at a Catholic school at the time. We protested at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Houston. Most of us there didn’t really want to be there, so our protest wasn’t exactly robust.
Anyone that reads these knows I care deeply about some things. I’m just not the protesting type. I suspect most of you are in the same boat. So, we need to frame our discussion. If most of us are not the protesting type then why are we getting offended when we talk about protesting and rioting? Who exactly are we talking about?
As I stand right now, the results appear to be between a two and four point victory in the popular vote for Biden. It will depend on how the last mail in votes land. There will be legal battles as those last few battleground states make their determination. It wasn’t a landslide vote and it wasn’t all that different nationwide from what it was in 2016. So, again, what are we talking about?
The FBI Director (appointed by the current president) has spoken at length about the threat of white supremacist groups. He has also spoken about Antifa. I had two grandfathers that were Antifa. They proudly served in the Navy and Army during WW2. How were they Antifa? Well, it stands for Anti-fascist. I would suspect many of us have relatives that were also Antifa.
The director himself admitted that Antifa was more of an idea. Black Lives Matter is also primarily an idea. The organization has some pretty whacky ideas, but most people identify with the general aims. Christopher Wray has always been more concerned with white supremacist groups than with Antifa or BLM.
So, if a member of one of those groups commits an act of vandalism or violence what is one to do? It seems pretty simple to say that you condemn that act of violence or vandalism. Whether you condemn the group depends on whether the act was sanctioned by the group itself or whether it was a rogue individual acting on his or her own.
There are two differences that I see. First, when we see an act of violence or vandalism we need to be clear about who is responsible. I reference the Boogaloo Bois in Minnesota. They burned down the the police precinct. Why? Well, when the average person hears about a police precinct being burned down they are going to naturally assume it was BLM or Antifa. There have been numerous events like this where counter protesters have stoked violence, stood back, and let left wing groups take the blame.
Of course, that can’t explain everything. People have acted badly. This is where the second difference comes in. There are organizations, groups, or gangs that specifically do these kinds of things. As the kids say, it’s a feature and not a bug. They exist to do damage, sew unrest, and cause chaos. Then there are groups aiming to bring about positive change, but have individuals within their groups that go against that positive message. There is certainly culpability there. You are responsible for what your people do. However, it is far different to have bad actors acting in bad faith and have people doing exactly what you want them to do.
There is a third difference. It is one thing to say that Biden and other Democrats have not done a good job of denouncing left wing extremists. That would probably be a fair criticism. I certainly haven’t spent a lot of air time here doing that. I’ll certainly take that criticism head on. However, there is a huge difference between not denouncing vandalism and violence and actively rooting for it.
I hate to have to keep doing this, but I explicitly am stating this here. I don’t think that is where most people are at. I think most people just want violence and vandalism to stop. Like most of us, they have on partisan shades that help them see the bad actors on the other side, but blind them from the ones on their own side. Again, I’ll cop to that.
Still, the president of the United States is actively cheering these people on. Everyone has already voted, but maybe we can all take a moment to ponder what this means. When I spoke of people protesting after the election it was out of an expectation that they might be actively encouraged to protest. Protesting is fine, but when groups that use questionable or illegal tactics are praised we have to be concerned about what happens next.