Bad Faith, In Every Form

One question keeps cropping up in the back of my mind lately when it comes to issues of civics and politics: Why, exactly, am I supposed to trust you?

That might seem kind of harsh, and maybe it is. At the same time, the last few years have presented me with little reason to think otherwise when it comes to these topics.

I spent a few years working in a place where people felt perfectly at home spewing the most vile homophobia, racism and sexism a person can possibly express. On top of that, I knew that in order to be able to keep my job, I had to refuse to point out either just how vile it was or even in the more basic personal way, that it made me deeply uncomfortable.

I've also had some rather choice sentiments directed at me personally in the last few years, in connection with matters of politics and civics. I've been called a racist because I didn't support Barack Obama in his bid for reelection and actively questioned exactly why it was a good idea to continue to support any candidate whose foreign policy and violations of basic human rights were similar to his. I was also pretty often called an Obama-bot, libtard, faggot, grifter, leach and various other names because I wasn't particularly interested in Mitt Romneys promises to turn American policy a quarter of a degree past where it's been these last four years. Because let's honestly face it, the total difference in actual policy and enforcement by Democrats and Republicans over the past twenty years hasn't even been a matter of degrees, it's been a matter of percentages of a degree, when the entire landscape is considered. Sure, they're rhetorically at odds, but when it comes down to actual policy and implementation, not so much.

There is of course, the old standby, that I hate freedom. I'm not exactly sure how that squares with my continued expression of distaste for and genuine alarm at the rate with which the government and various other entities with the ability to control different levers of power have eroded civil standards of privacy, speech, gathering and otherwise. Questions and skepticism are apparently antithetical to freedom these days. I didn't get the memo on that one. It's practically a joke at this point.

I've also been called an Islamophobe because I had the gall to suggest that if you consider the results of their collective efforts, Hamas might just not have the best interests of the Palestinian people in mind. I've also been called antisemitic, for suggesting that the Israeli government, as it is an industrialized democracy, might be subject to the same failures as the American political system, and that again, there may just be factions involved in the decision making process that don't have the best interest of the Israeli or Palestinian people in mind. If you'll notice, that particular sentiment or statement does not involve blaming Jews as an ethnic or religious community for anything. It's basically suggesting that Muslims, Jews, and every other possible group of human beings are subject to the same failures when it comes to the wielding of power. Given that, I'm not very willing to take the word of Hamas, the Israeli government or their various surrogates at their word. Call me cynical, but I don't just buy it when people in positions of power promise to be protecting people over whom they exert power and influence. I know, this is a crazy notion, but what can I say?

I've also seen the rights of people I know and care about roundly ignored or outright abused, as the majority of the nation sat on their fatted asses, commenting from the sidelines. Whether it was Occupiers in various parts of the country being beaten and pepper sprayed for expressing their First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of assembly or in Wisconsin these last few weeks when police have pepper sprayed and harassed people because they didn't appreciate their state legislature passing midnight legislation that hadn't been given a fair hearing by the people of the state, or women's health advocates getting arrested because among them were people who happened to both live in an anarchist commune and legally own firearms, which they weren't carrying (it's worth noting that it's not against the law to carry a concealed weapon or to open carry a weapon on Virginia Capital grounds. People literally do both, every day the legislature is in session). Let's also not forget the number of arrests at various protests of the Keystone pipeline, including those outside The White House.

This year I've also watched the overwhelming majority of Americans go all glaze eyed over the protestations many of the rest of us put up over the NDAA. Then came the decision by a federal judge that the provision in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens is against The Constitution, after both Democrats and Republicans wholly agreed it was both necessary, and in no way an interference with said Constitutional rights. That provision now being useless, the new National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 reconstitutes the same principle, under different language. Again, interest in this is low at best, and non-existent in the larger context.

Most recently, gun control advocates have joined anti-abortion advocates in accusing me of being in favor of child murder. Interestingly, neither of them seem to be quite so bothered when the political party of their favor chooses to blow children into small pieces from an unmanned drone. This may be more evidence of my cynicism, but I'm somehow unable to take their adamant cries for child protection quite so seriously in that context. I could just be crazy, but to think that there's some degree of partisanship driving the calls for gun control and the abolition of abortion doesn't seem beyond the realm of reality. This isn't to say that there isn't some degree of genuine belief in what they're advocating, but honestly, especially considering that some of the people who've accused me of being indifferent to the death of children have had significant enough time and dealings with me to know exactly how wrong that accusation is. I don't put a specific premium on categories of human life, which is really the main difference. A collection of cells isn't a human being as far as I'm concerned, and a Pakistani child's life is worth no more and no less than an American child's life. Let's be clear here, the drone program that's been killing children since it's inception has a two percent target kill ratio, meaning that of the people it kills, only two percent of them are the actual targets. And somehow I'm the one who is indifferent to murder. As far as I'm concerned, killing should be completely restricted to incidents where a person believes their life is in danger. That's pretty much it. It's also worth pointing out that all of this concern for the welfare of children should, logically, have lead to an effort to ban or heavily regulate the Catholic Church, considering that it engaged in a cover up of the magnitude that it did. Those kids are going to have to live with their wounds, which for some of them is going to mean many years of a kind of pain that might be a fate almost as cruel as death.

I'm not a political operative. I've never joined up with either party. I've never worked for a campaign for a candidate from either party. There was a period of time in my life (let's call it The Bush Years) when I definitely identified more with the Democratic Party, but at this point, I'm still asking many of the same questions and attempting to address the same issues now that their guy is in power, and for that I've been called a racist, an idealist and out of touch with reality. Again, it's interesting that they weren't calling each other those things when they were asking these very same questions of G.W. Bush. Republicans, it seems, have suddenly found their "principles" when it comes to many of these same questions. That is, of course, after eight years of defending the actions of the Bush administration that made the asking of those questions necessary and to which they responded by calling the persons asking those questions "unpatriotic."

I'm not a television personality. There is no monetary or career gain in expressing my opinions and feelings. In fact, probably in more cases than not, expressing my opinions and ideas would detract from the jobs I'd be allowed to have. I can basically guarantee at this point that I'd never qualify for a federal security clearance. I can also basically guarantee that if I were to attempt to get a job for a company that did significant contracting work for either of the major political parties, it wouldn't be happening. There's way too many publicly available blog posts of my criticisms of both political parties and the federal government. The fact that I seemed to have been instilled with the idea that power must always be questioned and held accountable has cost me more than it has won me monetarily. I can sleep at night though.

What does all of this have to do with my initial question? What does any of this have to do with asking why I should trust you?

You hate each other. At the end of the day, that's all there is now. You hate each other.

I'm not talking about hating the party leaders of the party you're in opposition to or their various public surrogates either. You hate each other. I'm talking about your neighbors and members of your community, people whom you may have far more in common with than the political partisans you've chosen to hitch your wagons to. The disdain with which you address each other and with which you talk amongst yourselves about the others is breath taking.

 I certainly know the majority of you don't spend much or any time at all actually listening to each other. You don't listen to me, and I'm not even one of them. For the majority, you stop listening the minute you realize I'm not one of you. Many of you badger, belittle and bully anyone who isn't one of you. Consider for a second what it says about you that because someone disagreed with you, you'd say they are either in favor of or indifferent to the murder of children. Think for a second about that...

Now think about how little you've fought to keep alive children in Yemen, Pakistan and the many other countries in which our drones are operating by bringing attention to these deaths...

Consider that.

How would you feel if I said you were indifferent to the murder of children or even in favor of it?

Considering how little most of you have attempted to influence the parties you identify with on that front, I'd probably be a bit more right than you are about that one. I've been writing and posting  about the U.S. drone program and it's casualties on different social media sites now for a few years

The thing is, no matter how much I might impugn the dogged loyalty many people show to their parties, I'd never go so far as to say that you're in favor of or indifferent to murder. It's certainly not beyond me to attempt to provoke a reaction that I'd hope might lead to a discussion of priorities, but even for me, who can be pretty provocative, that's a bridge too far.

There's a lot of talk out there that amounts to blaming the media for violence in the world. Movies, music, television, news, they're all really easy targets. Now though, with the advent and primacy of the internet, you still have yet to realize that you are the media. How does all of this blind hate fall into the larger picture of this very violent world we live in? For Americans, just exactly what part are you now playing in that? You've placed your faith in institutions that have taught you to hate your neighbors and the other members of your community who will share your fate whether or not you agree with it, and that fate, so long as you do so, will not be decided by you and those who surround you.

You don't have to take complete responsibility, this is definitely true, but at the end of the day, yours is a voice in a chorus. What song is that chorus singing and do you want to continue to participate? For all of the talk about the random acts of violence that we keep seeing, very few of you seem to be putting together that you're basically all participating in creating and propagating an environment that insists that there is either victory or defeat, and to the victor goes the ability to gloat, disenfranchise and ridicule the defeated. Add to that the fact that Americans basically spend the entirety of their lives competing for everything, and you've got the kind of pressure cooker environment that is likely to create the release of that pressure in the form of violence. Sure, the guns are the tool of choice at that point, but shouldn't there be a substantive conversation about that environment?

When I talk about my views on gun control, many people are shocked, given what they understand my other political views to be. These views aren't guided by the NRA. I hate the NRA, they're purveyors of lies and misinformation and they are so deeply intertwined with the Republican Party that it's impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. It's worth mentioning that in spite of being quite vocal about this, I've also recently been accused of being brain washed by the NRA.

I don't live in fear of criminals coming to my home. My belongings aren't worth killing over. I have no grand ideas that I would somehow be able to fight off the police if they came to cart me away on what I felt to be unjust grounds. The state is always capable of more violence than an individual. What I fear is that your hate is creating something you are not fully capable of controlling and not fully willing to recognize or understand. That's what I fear most.

Let's a take a page from history, shall we...

Lynchings were never legal in the strict sense. However, it wasn't at all unusual for members of law enforcement to take part in them. The dominant culture at the time, was able to enforce it's dominance through lynchings, intimidation, rape, arson and the fear resulting from all of those things. It's not even that everyone in all of the areas that lynchings took place believed in them or that there weren't people who thought they were barbaric, unjust and horrible. But it was a very, very, very long time before there were enough people willing to stand up and force enough attention onto this practice that it ended.

It wasn't even that long ago that people who were gay or transgendered were given not altogether different treatment, the response to which was also not altogether different. 
All of that, was the result of hate. It was a hate not completely dissimilar from what we're seeing now pass for political dialog. I have absolutely no quarrel with a pointed discussion and hard nosed disagreement, but we've gone far, far, far beyond that now.

Given this history, and that it's played out very much the same way, the world over, since human beings started keeping written history, including the very recent history during which the overwhelming majority of Americans have been willing to watch the rights of their fellow citizens violated and abused on the basis of the dominant culture enforcing it's power and dominance, I don't trust that most of you would do much of anything when all this hate you've created finally begins to spin out of control. For those of you who live in an area where yours is the dominant political culture, should these people you hate suddenly be the targets of some campaign of intimidation, harassment, and even violence, I don't honestly trust that you'd be willing to attempt to rectify that. In fact, I'm quite certain that if it required you put your economic, physical or social well being on the line, you'd do nothing. There would of course be a perfectly good justification to go along with that nothing, but in the end, that's exactly what it would be, nothing.

Also, given my predilection for asking questions many of you find uncomfortable and that have warranted extremely hateful responses, and that I do sometimes give in to the instinct for provocation, I don't completely trust that should this hate that you've all now decided to fully participate in spin out of control, I couldn't possibly end up on the losing end. I'd be more than willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of people would be easily frightened into watching someone like me carted off to a deserted area and dispatched.

What I fear is that you've put your desire to win, the desire for victory over the perceived other ahead of all considerations of faith in just about anything. I've seen good people, people I know to be otherwise caring and compassionate human beings reduced to spitting, biting, scratching bullies over their particular choice of affiliation. When something can reduce an otherwise good human being to that, it's something that should be distrusted and should be feared. For decades, stories about PCP doing essentially the same thing have driven far more strident reactions. Personally, I don't really care whether an individual is high on PCP or self righteousness of political affiliation, when their moral and communal compass is that badly set astray, it makes me deeply uneasy and deeply uncomfortable.

I have a basic distrust of centralized power that leads to a skepticism that results in questions. I have finally identified the source of that distrust, now, because of all of this. The source of that distrust is this hate that so many of you so freely spew at your neighbors, your community members and even sometimes, your family. The faith you place in it over rides the basic, practical reality that you have to live with and among these people, much more often than you have to live with and among those who are at the helm of that centralized power. The Democratic or Republican party leaders aren't ever going to be living next door to you. They're not going to be working next to you. They won't be grocery shopping next to you. In many cases, especially for those in RVA, I might. For the rest of you, someone very much like me might. Think of that the next time you attempt to rationalize away your behavior due to political realities. Your neighbors are much more a reality than the majority of your politics, whether or not they share your politics. I fear what most of you would be capable of doing or ignoring in order to protect the institutions you place trust in.

The only faith any of you really have is in your hate. Until your forced to by calamity and disaster, you have absolutely no faith in each other, and yet you never stop to realize that so many of those calamities and disasters could be prevented or at least heavily blunted by having some faith in each other before hand. For all the faith so many people out there claim to have, it seems to be about as useless as tits on a bull.

None of this really shows any kind of letting up either. It would be good for many of you to think about what it would mean should this current set of actions and attitudes be followed to their furthest logical conclusion.

So, when you ask why I'd rather take the chance of seeing the kind of random violence we saw on Friday continue, I have to answer that it's because I can't trust you. I can't trust you to understand what your hate is doing to our society, and what it's going to do to our society, because you won't even consider it. It's always their fault. Why don't I trust my neighbors? Because they're already infected with the same hatred you are, probably by the same sources. I certainly don't trust that the people who have been shaping the politics and messaging you've been following to keep all this hate under control forever. I'm not sure I even trust them to keep it under control when letting it loose might profit them. That's why I'd rather take the chance of seeing more random violence like that which took place on Friday occur than see some kind of grand inacting of gun laws. I'd rather be able to defend myself and my neighbors when the rest of you lunatics finally get to lynching and killing each other. It's really only a matter of time and circumstance.


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