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I Predicted This
The Fire This Time
One of the marvelous things about thinking philosophically, without any sort of dog in the political storms raging through the republic is the advantage such an outlook gives. It helps when the politics are stupid and circular. It allows the philosophical one to project the logic behind the moment into the future while participants in the dogfight focus on bloodying the nose of their pitmates. Three years ago, having witnessed the Antifa riots in Berkeley and then watching the riots in Paris, I recall having an epiphany. It was that these kinds of low level skirmishes could drag on interminably. Right here.
The occasion was Charlottesville.
Pause a moment and know that I wrote my missive before the vehicular homicide. I, like every other American, had time to think about what to make of the entire thing. I didn’t have much to say about Charlottesville itself, but quite enough to say about the proxies on that small battlefield.
Our identity politics have been ratcheting up the stakes of the continuing Culture Wars but they haven't reached a crescendo. The failures of the multiple intersectional third wave theoretical tentacles on the appropriate pronouns for pet groups, while crumbling to its foundations, have not yet lost their grip on the popular imaginations of the Chatting Class. So 'racism', 'sexism', 'homophobia' and various other accusations have not lost their cachet despite actual progress against these very real sins. That a lone wackjob like Dylan Roof can kill nine in Charleston and not set off so much acrimony as the gang of neo-confederates in Charlottesville tells us something very important. We have political groups of Americans who wish to see the destruction of other politcal groups of Americans. As I say, there hasn't been enough violence to satiate that bloodlust.
In a way, we are fortunate to have Antifa and Alt-Right to enact these fantasies. Call it the boneheads vs the skinheads. So far we, we meaning Left and Right, remain willing to send them into ritual combat as non-official proxies for the never ending stream of invective that is our contemporary political dialog. We are in that same perverse way, fortunate to have a President whose oratorial vacuity allows all sides to interpret whatever they wish to project as emanating from his bully pulpit. Americans are not actually having to deal with leadership in anyway resembling a responsible republic. So the wars between ourselves against ourselves continues. And it shall continue as the Congress, the Executive and the Press continue to fail to lead and America stumbles into a triple witching hour when all three fail simultaneously. Charlottesville is just a test. Our good fortune will soon run out and real riots will begin, but we now benefit by watching all the ingredients. Time will provide us another OJ Simpson or another Timothy McVeigh or another James Damore or another Matthew Shepard. Somebody whose fate will align the political opposition like Alt-Right and Antifa into a perfect storm. America will rage. Then America will hug. But first we must suffer the fire next time.
What strikes me as particularly notable about this latest non-event in Charlottesville all due respect to mere three deaths in Virginia, a number that MS-13 would consider a weak showing, is the actual symbol at the heart of the matter; the fate of a statue. You see there's still a lawsuit. And while lawsuits are generally the respectable and civilized way to resolve disputes, nobody is really talking about that lawsuit. The focus of our finger-pointing is the animus of the non-official proxies and what pronouncements we in the Chatting Class are demanding of their putative leaders. The legal process and the legal solutions for violence and rioting and municipal statuary are not what we really care about. We demand that the right people make the right sounds. We demand rhetorical satisfaction, ultimately a pledge of fealty. We are demanding satisfaction for something with great historical import and mythological power to validate our claims of sovereignty.
Dylan Roof killed a church full of black Americans and nobody rioted. There was no credibility of our de facto political stances on race that hung in the balance. Racist murder is clearly wrong in America when it’s clearly done by a white supremacist. Yet ‘racist’ is a political term that Republican call Democrats. ‘White supremacist’ is a political term that Democrats call Republicans. They each possess a smushy, partisan, unscientific yet credible definition of race that they can call the opposition on. Neither party could blame the other so it wasn't breaking headlines but became a different kind, a baby-down-the-well story, a story about healing after tragedy.
But like with Charlottesville, there are partisans about in the streets of America and both parties rise to the bait. So the cameras are directing our hungers towards these chaotic streets where people pretend that they are champions engaged in trial by combat. This should be a lesson to how quickly a nation that loved Game of Thrones are quickly attentive and attuned to such barbarity. As soon as riot is allowed, we know exactly how to do it. Human nature. Pick a side. Pick your poison.
This was my favorite picture. The bored black cop standing watch over idiot Nazi and Confederate wannabees, defending their physical safety and their rights for free, airhead speech. But now in cities across the country, people are watching slightly more energetic make as much noise as possible and in some places violent demonstrations are both funded and predictable. In Portland, there have been 90 straight days.
Remember the good old days of Charlottesville, when we thought we could make political talking points? Remember our little sticks poking the bear? The bear is awake.