“There is only one thing that gathers people into seditious commotion, and that is oppression.” – John Locke
“That guy” came to Albuquerque yesterday. Working to “Make America Great Again.” I am still struggling to understand what that means.
But I don’t want to talk about that guy. And I don’t want to talk about the protestors that showed up at the Convention Center. I don’t want to talk about the actions that took place. I don’t want to talk about the hateful rhetoric. I don’t want to talk about the confrontation with police. I don’t want to talk about the riot. I don’t want to talk about who-did-what-first to escalate a volatile circumstance. I wasn’t there.
I have participated in many protests. Some peaceful, some violent, some calculated, some spontaneous. I have been on the front line, in the background, in support roles, organizing, and sometimes just observing. I have been kettled by cops and thrown in jail. I have my own opinion about what happened last night based upon those experiences. But I really don’t know for sure.
I am addressing our reactions to these protests. This morning as I scanned social media I came across a couple threads with folks condemning and supporting the protestors. People are writing about what the “right” way to protest is, and how the folks on the ground in Albuquerque were doing it “wrong.” Other people are blaming the police for inciting a riot. Other people are questioning if they were protestors or just folks out looking for trouble. There are voices from people who were there, and voices from people who were not.
How many times is this going to happen? Will everyone please step back for a minute and take a deep breath? The tactics at the Civic Center ARE NOT THE ISSUE.
Certainly, there is a time and place to discuss effective technique for change. But this is not the time or place. That time and place passed by yesterday morning before the protests began. There will be another opportunity for that conversation. Right now is the time to recognize what we all just witnessed.
Discontent. Anger. Fear. Pain.
Protest is a signal that something isn’t working. When people mobilize in resistance, the first order of business is to look at what is being resisted. We are witnessing the rise of a demagogue in our national politics. This country rests upon the brink of tipping into open fascism. And while this demagogue rallies support across the country, the first response is to criticize the people who are actively resisting.
There is no need to analyze how peaceful or violent the protestors were. We need to speak out against the hateful rhetoric being spewed and consumed within our sanctioned political system. There is no need to defend or condemn the tactics of resistance. We need to recognize what the real threats to our communities are. There is no need to align with or distance from the people moved to action in the streets. We need to stand firm against the machine which only recognizes us as fuel for a neo-colonial/imperialist agenda.
A theater of the absurd is playing itself out across our screens. That theater is a direct threat to each of us. It is teaching us to distrust. It is teaching us to hate. It is teaching us to fight amongst ourselves. All of this to the benefit of feeding the machine’s insatiable appetite.
There is nothing broken within our political and economic system. The rules of this game have been crafted with great care over hundreds of years. The players have been honing their skills and reaping the rewards. Our role is very clearly defined and we continue to accept that role without question.
The role of dutiful citizen requires that you monitor your fellow citizens. Watch them for signs of non-compliance. Shun them for stepping out of the boxes provided within a society determined to silence dissent. The dutiful citizen contributes to oppression in a twisted display of self censorship. The dutiful citizen has the task of maintaining a status quo. That status quo serves only to strengthen the forces which keep us all from liberation.
Think about who benefits most from dutiful citizens censoring each other. You guessed it. It’s “that guy.”