For most of my life, I’ve been a radical pacifist. I believed that violence was literally the very last of last resorts… that violence should only ever be committed by you if, and only if, you are directly being attacked and are directly fighting for your life… and even then, you should commit the barest minimum amount of violence possible, working only to save yourself rather than hurt them.
But then we reached 2012, and Trayvon Martin was murdered by a man who was all but given a ticker tape parade for it, and was acquitted in 2013, sparking #BlackLivesMatter.
And then 2014 rolled around, and Michael Brown and Eric Garner were murdered by the police and there were no consequences.
And then there was 2015, and Baltimore, and I wrote the post White Supremacy and Violence (that’s the original link, not the most recent one with edits, which you can find here). That really should have been my first clue that my pacifism was being challenged, but it wasn’t.
The challenge wouldn’t play out publicly, or even consciously, until much more recently. No, not Richard Spencer getting punched in the face. It was when a preacher got wacked upside the head with an aluminum baseball bat. I found it impossible to feel bad for said preacher, and even wrote it about here on this blog. The reality is that I felt some level of schadenfreude for it, and didn’t, and still don’t, feel bad for that. I could only laugh at the preacher, having felt, and actually still feel, that, while he may not necessarily have deserved an aluminum bat to the head, he absolutely deserved something more than a tongue-lashing.
I went back to being quiet about it, not really thinking about the fact that, after that post, I couldn’t really justify calling myself a pacifist.
And then something I genuinely didn’t want to believe could happen actually happened. After two years of frankly annoying campaigning, Republican lies, Russian hacks exposing a red herring in the form of useless, bullshit emails, an old white man who riled up White Progressives because not even liberals could stomach the idea of a woman as president, and an outdated Electoral College system, Hillary Clinton, who really should be our president right now, lost to an orange fascist who very likely has ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin…
(I’m just going to say this here: I don’t fucking care how corrupt Hillary Clinton is. I just fucking don’t.
EVERY FUCKING POLITICIAN IS FUCKING CORRUPT! THAT’S THE BAREST FUCKING MINIMUM REQUIREMENT TO BE A FUCKING POLITICIAN WORLD FUCKING WIDE! IT IS FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE TO BE A FUCKING POLITICIAN WHO ISN’T FUCKING CORRUPT!
If anyone else had been Clinton’s opponent in the election, then I’d care about those fucking emails and how corrupt she is. But her opponent was fucking Cheeto Fascist. And some fucking assholes were so goddamned pressed about some pathetic fucking emails that they preferred fucking Dorito Leader over someone who, at the very fucking least, would not be trying to become a fucking dictator.
Hillary Clinton would be a better president than Agent Orange.
End of fucking subject.)
And I was pissed. Like… violently livid.
And I still am. (I mean… obviously… look at that rant above…)
And then… then Richard Spencer got punched in the face. This is when, I think, I realized that I’m no longer a pacifist… that I no longer abhor violence.
It crystallized for me in an email conversation I was a part of, where I said this:
I think I’m so used to being a dedicated pacifist that realizing that I’m turning my back on that scares me. To be fair, I’ve been turning my back on that for a while, now. I think my first sign was when I wrote that post “White Supremacy and Violence” back during the Baltimore protests. It was the first time I ever wrote something that defended rioting and property damage, and the first time I ever thought about the fact that property damage and violence are two different things. I also started noticing that my favorite podcasts (Radio Dispatch, TWiBPrime, TBGWT, The Read, Citizen Radio, etc) were more and more defending the same things.
Now I honestly don’t see what else is left. Pacifism really does seem to have failed… miserably.
Because it’s so easy to ignore…
And then, a few days ago, I read the news that a Grand Wizard of the KKK was found dead in Missouri. I listened to The Black Guy Who Tips, where Rod read the headline and then played “Celebration” while Karen laughed. I listened to Citizen Radio, where Allison and Jamie made an entire hilarious bit out of it. I find myself hoping that Crissle and Kid Fury of The Read will have some hilariousness to say about it.
And then I read who the suspects were, and the only thought I had… indeed, the only thought I can have… is “well… heroes often come from unexpected places”.
And… like… I should feel bad about this! I should be chastising myself for even daring to think this!
A human life was taken! This man was murdered! Sure, he was an evil leader of an evil organization that has a history of murder and terrorism… but when they go low, aren’t we supposed to go high? And besides… I’m against the Death Penalty! It’s wrong, and we as a country shouldn’t be practicing it! Revenge isn’t justice!
But that’s just it…
See… the problem I’m having is that… well… to me, peace has utterly and completely failed. While we’ve been “going high”, fascists have been slowly turning the United States into a right-wing Christo-fascist state. While we’ve been “going high”, the KKK and neo-Nazis have been enjoying a popular resurgence. While we’ve been “going high”, people of color have been murdered by the state, and there’ve been essentially zero consequences.
What has peace ever gotten us but more White Supremacy, more Patriarchy, more pain, more death, more suffering…? What has it ever won?
People will, rightly, point out Martin Luther King, Jr and what he won with Civil Rights.
But he didn’t win it.
First, any of the successes garnered by the Civil Rights movement can at least be equally credited to Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and many other more violent movements working alongside King and his radical pacifism.
Second, if King was alive today, he’d see quite clearly that not only have we not fulfilled his dream, we’ve actively shat on it and then forgotten about it. His dream has become nothing more than a meaningless platitude, parroted by white people who want to feel good about believing something good while literally doing nothing but maintaining a status quo that’s been in place since the US’s founding.
So… really… King didn’t win much at all.
To be honest, this does scare me. I don’t want to lose my devotion to pacifism. I don’t want to be violent. I don’t want any of this.
But I’m genuinely lost as to what else is left. A large part of me is actually afraid that the Electoral College just handed us the last president the United States will ever have.
Because peace is so easy to ignore. People take peace for granted. We can ignore peaceful protests. We can pretend they aren’t happening. When everything is peaceful, us privileged people are comfortable. We don’t have to worry about literally anything other than our own personal problems. We don’t have to worry about the state of our world. We can sit here, living our lives, ignorant of the shit happening around us.
But then pharmacies burn down. Coffee shops get their windows smashed. Cop cars go up in flames. Misogynistic preachers get whacked over the head with aluminum baseball bats. Nazis get punched in the face. Grand wizards of the KKK turn up dead.
And we are FORCED to pay attention.
It’s funny, isn’t it? Peace can be taken for granted. Violence, however, demands attention.
Maybe that’s why violence works where peace fails?
What has peace done for us but get Agent Orange elected to the White House? What has peace done for us but embolden racists, misogynists, anti-Jewish bigots, transphobes, homophobes, Islamophobes, classists, and ableists? What has peace done for us but embolden fascists?
What has peace done for us but maintain the status quo?
Is peace even possible at this point?
I’d like to hope so, but I’m feeling less and less hopeful every day… and Antifa is looking more and more appealing, too…
You know, there is one thing… one hope… one ray of light… that could turn me around:
In 2018, we’ll hold the midterm elections. And I’d like to believe that so many people are appalled at current events that we’ll elect a Congress more progressive than any ever seen in the United States.
But then I remember that the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. I remember that Republicans are working damn hard to ensure that only conservative white people are able to vote. I remember that while Agent Orange lost the popular vote, he still got a holy hell of a lot of votes. I remember that, really, the United States is conservative.
And that ray of light looks more and more like a lying little mirage… a tease, but not a reality…
This is my uncomfortable confession. These are the thoughts I’m having now. And I know, objectively, that I’m wrong. That there has to be a path that can be taken peacefully. That pacifism is still the way.
But I can’t feel that. I can’t believe that. I’ve lost all hope in pacifism. I’ve lost all hope in peace. I genuinely can’t see what good peace has brought us. Hopefully, as the days move on, I’ll leave this space I’m in now, look back on this post, and be embarrassed. I can’t express in words how badly I want to proven wrong. I can’t express in words how badly I want to be a pacifist.
But, at least right now, I…
I just can’t…