The Fog of (Civil) War

AP Photo/Morry Gash

 

Everything that needs to be said to reflect the direction that America heads during a pandemic-marred, racially-charged presidential election year was said during this past week.

For many, the thought that LeBron James – once a boy living in the projects of Akron, OH before becoming a $450 million business juggernaut –  would use a uniquely-positioned platform to prompt a shift in the social justice movement was beyond the pale.

“Honestly…he should shut up and dribble…because he really hasn’t done anything for Black people besides play basketball and kneel,” many people said in some form or fashion. Of course, they were talking about a man who has done more than just play basketball – from starting a school that has created an unusual new and promising stoke in the school choice dynamic to publicly advocating for an end to gun violence in Black communities across the nation. Perhaps we should be glad that a man with only a private school secondary education has decided to care about academic improvement and social issues, even when we disagree with some of the opinions. We should be glad that he did not just shut up and dribble.

Just as much, we should be glad that US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) knows Breonna Taylor’s name, despite what protesters ignorant of that fact yelled as they pushed and harassed him on the streets of the nation’s capital this week.

“Say her name,” they yelled at Paul as he attempted to walk after the President’s acceptance speech on Thursday night. Of course, they continued despite the fact that the Senator knew the name – and tragic death – of Breonna Taylor quite well. He is a Kentuckian, he is a libertarian-leaning Republican (i.e., he is for less government intervention in everyday life), and he is the author of the ‘Justice for Breonna Taylor’ Act in the US Senate, a proposal that seeks to address situations that lead to tragedies such as the death of Ms. Taylor. According to the Senator’s website, “After talking with Breonna Taylor’s family, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s long past time to get rid of no-knock warrants. This bill will effectively end no-knock raids in the United States.”

Paul also went to one of the nation’s leading HBCUs – Howard University (alma mater of VP nominee and Senate colleague, Kamala Harris) – not once, but twice over the years to directly engage some of America’s brightest students to address issues of race in America. He did this both as a freshman senator who rode the Tea Party wave to Washington but also as a 2016 presidential candidate. The Senator may not have all of the answers to racial tensions in America (and some of his views on historical issues on private property and Jim Crow discrimination miss the mark). However, he does know Ms. Taylor’s name – and, as well, he is doing something to honor her name as well.

To some, the more relevant point is that Kyle Rittenhouse should not have crossed state lines, underaged and armed, and past the established curfew in Kenosha. To them, if he was not there, he is not positioned to kill 2 people and wound another. To others, the more relevant point is that the uprisings in places like Kenosha and Portland continue to involve a deadly mix of ANTIFA-affiliated anarchists, peaceful protesters, experienced criminals, militia members, out-of-town observers, unmarked vans, and scared residents – a mix where the tensions can only be tamped down through a philosophy of “law and order”, even if that means that ordinary Americans must be counted on to grab a gun and take matters into their own hands on either side of a scrum.

To some, Jacob Blake could not possibly have been a threat with his back turned – not one that deserved seven shots to his back in front of his young children in broad daylight. To others, a turned back and a non-compliant attitude should always signal a potential threat during a police interaction, thus opening the possibility to deadly force being used.

In the fog of civil war within modern America – where every intention, event, bill, speech, and discussion are up for wide-ranging interpretations that are based often on just feelings, not facts – nothing can be pragmatically-deduced anymore. Reason has become irrational. “Compromise” is a cuss word for cuckservatives and Uncle Tom sellouts. Solutions are only secured through placing one’s foot (or knee) on the neck of one’s political opponent as if those Americans are actually the ones stealing intellectual property from our companies, terrorizing our Asian allies with continued missile tests, threatening Middle East war with saber-rattling with Israel, or poisoning opposition leaders that are fighting for liberty.

Then again, in the fog of civil war, the social toxins of subjective truth, justifiable hate, encouraged mistrust, and siloed rhetoric are doing a fine job of poisoning Americans every single day.

America – what we believe the flag should represent and what we believe that the greatest patriots throughout our history worked towards — cannot work at its current clip. We will never have law and order in America without a deeper reality of constitutional law and order for all Americans. We will never have lasting stability and peace in the streets without equality and justice within the institutions that impact our lives, from schools to other aspects of society. We will never have liberty for all without having some universally-shared American experiences and expectations for all – from respect for those we disagree with to honor of our nation as we fight for a more perfect Union.

This fog of civil war has fooled people into believing that we can obtain and secure a better America without the cooperation of a major portion of Americans – that is, the portion of the population whose ideas, experiences, and culture do not easily blend with our own. Instead, it is much easier to believe (and difficult to see without intentional effort) that White senators from Southern states or Blacks from a particular political party are incapable of pursuing justice for Black victims of over-policing, just as it is easier to hang onto the notion that African-Americans seeking racial equality are nothing more than a bunch of Marxists and communists, a ruse almost as old as the “…when the looting starts, the shooting starts…” sentiment. However, these beliefs are profoundly misguided, emotionally disorienting, factually incomplete, and dangerously uncivil.

One thing that we apparently all agree on: the foundation of America is being ripped up from underneath us in 2020, through the protests, the economic upheaval, the workplace and school interruptions, and the political discord. Yet, if there was ever a time for us to start finding the common ground that unites the nation and stabilizes our rules of civil engagement once again, it is now. The Civil Rights Movement of the 21s Century has begun, but likely, too, so has the New American Civil War – on social media, in American politics, through traditional media, and within the streets of everyday American towns and institutions. Yet, because of globalization, the loser of this new entanglement will not just be a portion of our nation; it will be the United States of America in totality. If we do not end this war very soon and quite properly, we all will lose. In the aftermath, a nation that values liberty, democracy, and justice less than us takes the hill, even as the shining city continues to burn itself down.