Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Friday, August 18, 2017

An Angry Geezer

I'm now categorized as an "young old guy" or "mature middle-aged fellow," depending on who is doing the labeling. To my 87-year old mother-in-law, I'm relatively young, while to my kids, I'm clearly a dinosaur.

But however I'm labeled, I will tell you that in my six-plus decades on the planet, the last year or so has seen a level of social, political, and cultural rest the likes of which I have not seen since the 1960s and early 70s. And I'm fairly certain its going to get worse before it gets better.

Now, philosophically I believe in principles that lean in the Buddhist direction. In other words, I believe that on a universal level it is tolerance, compassion, and equanimity that have the power to eventually create peace and happiness for everyone.

What I believe and what I'm able to practice are two different things, though, and I fully acknowledge that I'm not a great Buddhist yet. In immediate terms, I'm pissed as hell at our president and his chief priest Steve Bannon and the 35% of Americans who appear to be their disciples.

The problem with a Ghandi philosophy of peaceful, non-violent social resistance is that it takes so damned long, and in my American experience, I observe that it is usually genuine physical action that brings about change. And yes, sometimes that action borders on the violent. In the 1960s and 70s, it was only at the point where the Black Panthers stopped being peaceful neighborhood activists and began stocking their headquarters with guns in defense against police raids that civil rights change began to accelerate. And it was at the point where college protestors began throwing tear gas canisters back at police that we as a nation grew truly weary of the Vietnam war.

It's now been shown that Donald Trump's most recent fake fact—that the violence in Charlottesville, VA involved equal culpability by white supremacists and members of the Antifa crowd—is so much bull dung. Objective reports verify that the right-wing crowd arrived with clubs, helmets, shields and pepper spray in anticipation of conflict, and that Antifa members became physical only when the right-wing began pushing and shoving and punching ordinary counter-demonstrators. Left-wing violence was indisputably an act of self-defense. After all, who was it that drove a car through the crowd in an act of murder?

Nor does the insistence that there were "fine people" to be found on the white nationalist side of demonstration seem to hold any water. Virtually all the advertisements and posters announcing the Charlottesville event either featured the confederate flag, or more blatantly stated things like "White People, Take Back Your Country from the Jews!" Where, I wonder, are the fine people who come out to participate in an event defined in such a way?

I'd like to be able to frown and discourage all violence wherever it occurs. Maybe white supremacists and Neo-Nazis can indeed be defeated through peaceful disagreement over a period of many decades. And I'd also like to be that guy who gathers up cockroaches, takes them outside and releases them into the wild. However, I'm an imperfect human being, and in practical terms I feel that cockroaches of any ilk need to be stepped on, or at least chased back into the shadows and made afraid of the light.

This is not to say that I believe we necessarily need to physically assault members of the Neo-Nazi crowd wherever we find them. There are levels of violence that can be pursued in a war against these bastards. On one level, all disagreement—verbal and political—is an act of violence. I do believe that we need to make it clear, at least through the verbal and political violence of word and opinion, that we do not tolerate that which is intolerable. White supremacists need to be insulted, derided, chastised and in every way made to understand that we do not tolerate their beliefs and do not accept their right to spread the disease. And decent people do need—and in fact have a responsibility—to physically protect themselves when attacked. To practice tolerance with this crowd is like accepting the right of small pox to exist.

As for Steve Bannon, if he were to suddenly step in front of my car on the street while jaywalking, I would apply the brakes—but I fear that I'd think for a long, long moment before doing the right thing.