Capitol hijinks and performative outrage

What a week, huh?
Was I surprised that rioters stormed the Capitol? No. Not even a little bit. When the first person mentioned it to me, I was honestly unimpressed. Of course they did. This is the world we live in. That isn’t cynicism. We’ve been stoking hate in this country since the first white man ever felt slighted and needed to feel superior to someone else.

On October 23, 1993, I happened to be in D.C. with my family when the government celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Capitol. We came upon the celebration and decided to watch. In attendance were President Clinton, members of the House and Senate and Justice Blackmun. Liza Minelli sang America The Beautiful. And a helicopter lifted the newly restored Statue of Freedom back onto the top of the dome. It was fantastic.

skip to 1:10:00 to see Clinton’s speech. It’s good.

I know the limitations of my government and the intentional impediments put in place to keep the power dynamic skewed in favor of the status quo. I’m not a cockeyed optimist or a blind patriot. But I believe in hope and progress and the work that must be done to move the proverbial football down the field.

I’d taken a break from social media and went back to FB on Wednesday to see all these cowards so bravely (and in all caps) telling their FB friends to unfriend them if they supported Trump and the actions of the rioters. I rolled my eyes. The day before they hadn’t denounced these idiots. And they wouldn’t have denounced them on Wednesday but for the fact that such a mockery of democracy had taken pace. It took zero courage to make those statements but they somehow needed to make them. These are the acts of people who have never had to stand for something in their lives. Their posts were a joke. And these were lawyers and professors.

I’ve been culling people from my life for decades for their perversions of facts, their bigotry and stupidity, their hypocrisy and cruelty and overall bad behavior. I don’t say that to feel superior. I did it because it needed to be done. Because I knew that my dropping these people was a necessary stand, it was the only thing I had the power to do, and only then after much consideration. These people who went on to social media to decry the riot weren’t taking a stand. They did it to perform to their likeminded friends on a social media platform from behind the safety of their computer screens. They didn’t even take any action. They just left it to others to unfriend them.

How many people acquiesce for the sake of peace and comfort in their personal lives? America is full of entitled Neville Chamberlains who make nice with very bad people because it doesn’t affect them personally to keep the status quo. Upsetting the apple cart, on the other hand, would put a dent in their cushy bullshit conventional existences.

Would you quit a job if it conflicted with your ethics? Would you stop purchasing from a company if you knew the employees were mistreated? Would you walk away from Omelas if you knew your Utopia was based on the suffering of a single child?

We all of us make concessions to the evil that underpins our collective existence. Except maybe Jainist nuns who go to the extent of wearing face masks so as not to inhale even the tiniest of gnats. All of our lives are based on uncomfortable truths that we refuse to acknowledge because doing so would cripple us to the point of grinding to an absolute halt. That’s not what I’m advocating here. And obviously not what I am pretending to be. But every day we must take stands. Every day we must practice compassion for suffering. We must acknowledge it. And we must work to end it, even when that requires sacrifice and a loss of earthly comfort.

Telling people to unfriend you because they support the yahoos who broke into the Capitol is not a sacrifice in any way. It’s too little too late. It’s fake. It’s phony. It’s disgusting. And it accomplishes nothing. Which is what most people are so very good at anyway.

I want to open an Etsy store that sells signs made from reclaimed wood with calligraphied phrases like:

In this house we don’t support storming the Capitol; or

Invading Poland is wrong; or

Exterminating entire races of people is bad.

I’d make a million dollars and not feel the least bit bad for taking money from people stupid enough to think they were making a difference and finishing the job just by hanging a bespoke piece of crap with lukewarm convictions in their kitchens next to their set of ironic coffee mugs. It’d be the liberal equivalent of wearing a MAGA hat or adhering a Blue Lives Matter bumper sticker to your Dodge Ram. I’d laugh all the way to fucking bank.

And now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, the real work ensues. How do we make people uncomfortable enough to get them to care before it’s too late? How do we re-engineer education to get people to think critically? The only way out of this fracas of modern apathy is through empowerment of the mind, the heart, the soul. Unfortunately, I think I’d be more successful with the Etsy store honestly. For now, I just keep throwing pebbles into the water and hope the ripples have an effect.

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