Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville Didn't Happen In A Vacuum

If you somehow missed it, there was an enormous pre-planned and legal rally yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia organized by a loose coalition of groups that would fall under the various banners of White nationalism, the alt-right, Southern heritage, etc. There were even some random KKK members and a few neo-Nazis on hand (as well as some counter-protesters waving Soviet flags but those pics didn't make the mainstream media). It was a huge event and it drew a lot of rally participants and as always a lot of counter-protesters from the so-called "antifa", many of whom went openly declaring their intent to cause mayhem via violence. To make matter worse, the local governments tried very hard to stop this rally at the last moment and only court orders (supported I believe by the ACLU) forced the local governments to honor the legally obtained permits and many, many reports from the ground indicated that the police did very little to keep the counter-protesters away from the main rally. There have been a lot of rallies like this in other places and they went off peacefully but the mayor of Charlottesville and the governor of Virginia seem far more overtly partisan.

What you ended up with was a combustible mix and it went about as badly as it could. One person who has been arrested drove his car late in the day at high speed into a crowd, killing one person and injuring many others. While the police have released his name and photo, we don't have much other information about him. That didn't stop people from instantly ascribing motivations to him, often the same people who seem baffled as to the motives of someone yelling "Allah Akbar" while attacking people. In an unrelated event that somehow has been pinned on the rally, a police helicopter crashed and two cops were killed. Even "right-wing" Fox News ran this headline:

I am not sure how the rally can be blamed for a chopper crashing unless someone from the rally shot it down and no one is making that claim as far as I know. So three people dead, dozens injured, a number arrested, passions inflamed all around.

President Trump came out right away and said the right thing for a change.

Of course that didn't placate the Left because nothing he said would have stopped them from trying to score political points. People on the Left were screaming because he didn't specifically call out "White supremacists" even though there was plenty of violence coming from  the antifa. Meanwhile Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat Governor of Virginia, called out "White supremacists" by name but was silent about the violence from the leftist antifa. The bottom line is that the rally organizers had permits and a Constitutional right to assemble whether or not you like what they have to say, just as Black Lives Matter rallies have the same right. The government has an obligation to protect the free expression of speech, especially political speech. President Trump was absolutely correct to condemn the violence without exception yesterday.

The events yesterday confirmed two things I have been saying for a while.

First, sooner or later something bad was going to happen and someone was going to get killed in one of these clashes. Leading up to the election and ever since there has been a great deal political violence and in spite of what the media tells us it was almost exclusively one way. In event after event, leftist agitators attacked people peacefully minding their own business. People going to Trump rallies were attacked, had their hats snatched from their heads, were chased by crowds of thugs in parking garages. Controversial speakers from actual muckrakers like Milo to serious academics like Charles Murray caused enormous conflagrations on campuses from Berkeley to Middlebury with enormous property damage and people getting injured. Antifa hit people with bicycle locks, something that could easily kill someone, sprayed mace in the eyes of women simply talking to reporters, sucker punched alt-right leader Richard Spencer, throw bags of urine and often seek to find protesters separated from the larger crowd for attacks. There has not been this much overt political violence in my lifetime that I can recall. I have been warning that someone was going to get killed in one of these clashes. I sort of expected to see someone either get hit and have their skull caved in or someone getting attacked pull a gun to defend themselves but something was bound to happen. You can't have inflamed emotions plus people bent on disruption and violence ("By Any Means Necessary") coming together without something going tragically wrong.

The second thing I have been saying for a while is that we cannot continue down this road as one politically united people. I wrote back in February that it was time to consider dissolving the union in my post Is It Time To Once Again Dissolve The Political Bands That Connect Us?. I made the argument that for the first time since the 1860's what divides us is more powerful than what unites us.
My proposal is pretty simple but it is also incredibly complex. We should have a serious conversation about a political division of the United States into smaller, more manageable sovereign nations. I am not sure what that looks like in practice. Four countries, a Southern States of America, a Western States of America, a Northeastern States of America and a Northern States of America (the current Midwest)? How would trade and commerce and the free movement of people work? What would we do about the military, who gets the nukes and the aircraft carriers?
Obviously there is a lot to think about but if we cannot find common ground as a people and if violence continues to spiral, is there any other choice? An amiable separation would certainly be better than a violent civil war. The United States has stood for more than 200 years, surviving a terrible civil war once. I don't think we could survive another.
The events that followed my post in February only reinforce my belief that the union cannot be saved and that we will come apart, either violently or by negotiations but it will happen. I am going to be writing more about this on my other blog in the days to come.

One more thought on the reaction of the church.

This will not be popular but it is true. There is a great deal of blame to lay at the foot of the church at large in America for what went on yesterday but it has little to do with the church spending an insufficient amount of time talking about race.

We have largely ceded the conversation on race to a single narrow viewpoint that largely reinforces the guilt-victim narrative. Minorities are all victims, Whites are all guilty. Those may not be the exact words used but that is functionally how it comes across. Even "conservative" groups are talking about "privilege". That might resonate among the rarefied air of academia but it doesn't among the average Joe working his butt off to support his family. Tell the white guy working at a working class wage who is struggling with bills, watching his health insurance rates skyrocket and college tuition spiking that he is the unjust beneficiary of "White privilege" and you are not likely to get an affirming response. There is little appetite for real conversations about race in the church and this has left an enormous vacuum in the narrative. There is an old saying that nature abhors a vacuum so don't be surprised when you don't like what fills it.

The conversation about race in the church is a close parallel to the conversation about race in America as a whole. The center where the hard conversations take place is empty and all that is left are the two extremes, the social justice warrior, "white privilege" Left on one side and the White nationalist alt-right on the other. With nothing but the extremes on either end, is it any wonder that people are gravitating toward the extreme Right end of the spectrum? Not wishing to sound arrogant but not a lot of average Christian men are inclined to take the time to think through the complex issues of race and the Kingdom. They are too busy making ends meet and caring for their family. When faced with a simplistic dichotomy of "people like you are the problem" and "people like you are the solution", which do you suppose is more appealing?

My meandering point is this. If you abandon the field of discourse to the extremes, you shouldn't be surprised when people adopt extremist positions. If the church continues to fearfully avoid having the tough conversations about race and refuses to abandon the guilt-victim narrative that pits people of different races against one another, then the church is complicit in the continuing extremism on both sides of the conversation. We are past the point where hokey and empty platitudes and out of context verses are sufficient for the task. If we can't move past a VBS level discussion of one of the most divisive topics we face, we have no one to blame but ourselves for what the results are.

What happened yesterday is only the beginning. Both sides, the "antifa" and By Any Means Necessary crowds on one side and the alt-right and White nationalist groups on the other are united by one common belief: yesterday was a success. I expect to see the rallies continue and the pace to accelerate. Those who thrive off of this are not going to see someone getting killed as a reason to back off, just the opposite. Where will the church be? If the answer is on the sidelines where it has been for a decade then the results will be the same.

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