I support free speech as much as the next warm-blooded American. I’ve even taken positions that weren’t always popular due to the popular position being against what I stood for or supported. What we have lately is a tragedy of American freedom in that it seems we’re posturing more to antagonize others than to support a position. Protesting for White Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, whatever is your constitutional right. Using symbols of racism and hate to take a peaceful protest and turn it into something more akin to what we had in our past is crossing a moral line. At the moment that the American Civil War was over, the confederate flag became the symbol of racism and hate. At no point do I see that flag and think to myself “southern heritage” as the man in this article indicates is their reason to have them at the protest. My parents lived in the south for more than 15 years and during visits, I would encounter people who gave the impression the war was never won. Their views of the world were very narrow and I actually felt sorry for them for not having the opportunity to see the world any differently than their ancestors that fought in the war so many years ago.
Black Lives Matter has been warped into a battle cry against racism by whites onto blacks. I’ll let that sink in a little before I continue. The incident in Milwaukee partially proves my statement. The coverage of that was significantly less than coverage of the previous incidents in other cities. Milawaukee has a primarily black government, black police force, and black population. The majority of news coverage was not of the victim drawing a gun on the police officer and refusing to put it down. The majority of news coverage was not of the police officer using deadly force in self-defense against a gun being drawn on them. The majority of news coverage, actually, was the riot that broke out in protest of the police shooting where there was little to no Black Lives Matter protests. Why did everyone riot in the first place? I’ll admit there might be some naivety on my part here and welcome comments of differing points of view. I’m left being very confused at this fact because my understanding of that organization was the protection of all black lives against hate of all kinds.
Now, in Houston, there is a group of white people holding confederate flags protesting in front of an NAACP office with a banner that reads “#WhiteLivesMatter”. I’m disgusted by this display of hate to the point where I *had* to write about it while still at work. I get that the protest was against the NAACP and other black organizations in their failure to speak out about events that took the lives of white police officers. I don’t dispute the fact that every single person in this protest had a right to have said protest. What I am disgusted at and definitely dispute is the blatant display of items that were used in a purposeful manner to incite violence. Up until I read the line in the article where the group held assault rifles, I had an open mind. Assault rifles do not convey anything close to resembling a peaceful protest! I’m pro-gun, have been for a long time, but assault rifles in my opinion cross the protection vs. deadly force line. I see no reason short of fatal collapse of government where an assault rifle would be necessary. Owning one and keeping it in your home is one thing, but carrying it openly at a protest send the wrong message.
Why have we as Americans become so fractured as a society? Where did we go so wrong that guns and violence replaced conversation and mutual respect? Questions I think we all need to find an answer to before escalating posturing on both sides degrades into an all out war. I personally do not treat anyone differently until given a reason to do so, and then when given a reason, I offer my understanding and walk away. The thought of violence to solve problems really never enters into my mind and would absolutely never be an answer to anything I considered productive. One of the reasons I write is to convey my thoughts and feelings in a way that helps me to understand. It isn’t to make anyone upset, mad, or offended. I respect different points of view in that they’re ways I can broaden (not limit) my understanding of the world. Too many people are closed off to anything other than what they know, which in my experience, is often very little and matches what they learned from their parents and grandparents. My father chose to break that cycle and I am further breaking that cycle by being even more open-minded than my father was with us (he definitely has his moments). I’m instilling in my daughter an ability to see the world with an open eyes and an open mind, to see that there are peaceful answers to any problem and given the chance, people can be good.
I’ve had several deep conversations with acquaintances over the last several weeks that have been truly enlightening. They’ve provided a different point of view that in turn expanded my understanding in a way that allowed me to clean my “glasses” a little more. Prejudice, ignorance, racism, and other hate will keep your glasses dirty or foggy. Learning to understand others around you without any of that helps to clean them or provide a clearer picture. It’s easy to lean on anger and hate; it’s a lot harder to fight that reaction and instead lean on respect and understanding. Articles such as this one don’t help the growing problem, they only serve to exacerbate it.