Back in August, I wrote about how the riots which followed in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota were emblematic of the bureaucratic mismanagement and neglect that residents of major cities across America have endured long before the WuFlu lockdowns this last Spring. Then, when the lockdowns came and many locally-owned businesses struggled to survive during that time, only to see their businesses looted or burned to the ground in May all while the police, mayors, and the governor did next to nothing to control the mayhem.
Since that time, not much has changed. While most of the boards have come off the windows on some of the businesses here in Saint Paul and the rubble of some of the buildings that were destroyed has been cleaned up, their lots are still empty. There are also a lot more “For Sale” signs along the streets, where buses and our publicly-subsidized commuter train still run at a fraction of their capacity. After all, what sane entrepreneur would reopen, let alone think of starting a business in an area where the security of their investment cannot be guaranteed by the public servants who are tasked with maintaining order in exchange for the high taxes they pay? In fact, the only places that still bustle with the hum of commerce are the small enclaves situated around the three private colleges that are located within a five-mile radius.
As for the “hustle” that usually accompanies the commercial “bustle”, the only other activity that has seen a steady increase since the riots is, ironically, the same sort of protesting that caused the area’s downward slump to spiral out of control in the first place. I recently witnessed this firsthand when I picked up my kids on a mild December Saturday afternoon. As I tried to pull out into traffic, I noticed a bunch of flashing lights a few blocks down the street from where we were, and wondered if there had been an accident or yet another criminal pursuit had come to an end.
As we drove down the street I wondered whether I should take a detour, but I could see the cars ahead of me slowly driving around whatever was blocking the road ahead of us. As I followed behind the other cars, I saw that the flashing lights were the police, in both cars and on bikes, bringing up the rear of a mass of Black Lives Matters (BLM) marchers. Some were carrying signs, one guy was carrying a loud speaker on his back so that someone in the crowd could yell into microphone, and (interestingly enough) some were dressed all in black, complete with balaclavas. I thought perhaps some Antifa members were bored and decided to join the throng. While I have obviously seen these protests online and even from a distance, that was the first time I had been right in the thick of things with some of the marchers passing within an arm’s length of my SUV.
My middle son, a recent high school grad, told me that they must have been up at the Governor’s mansion which was about a mile away. When I asked how he knew that, he reminded me that a few weeks earlier he had been over in that neighborhood and had met some “MAGA-folks” who invited him to go along to a “Stop the Steal” protest outside the Governor’s residence. With no other pressing issues at hand and feeling caught up in the mood, he went along. He told me that it was a pretty fun time and added that, “they were even grilling hot dogs!” Needless to say however, BLM and other counter-protestors showed up as well to make sure no one forgot about them, but on the whole event remained peaceful.
A Brush with Danger?
Perhaps BLM and/or Antifa (is there really that much of a difference between them at this point?) have learned a lesson about the optics of looting and burning down businesses. Or perhaps, there was simply not enough of an audience for their antics in the burned out and abandoned areas mentioned above. Whatever the reason, the marchers I drove passed had plainly taken a lesson from BLM chapters in cities such as Portland or Kenosha. They decided to move out into residential areas to make as much noise as they possibly can, so as to push the sensibilities of the residents to the breaking point, so that should any of them try to retaliate against the marchers, they can cry “oppression”.
Although my encounter with the marchers lasted probably less than 30 seconds, I still felt a visceral and heightened reaction in that short period of time. A mob of protestors has a mass and mind of its own that can break out into violence in the blink of an eye. Being so close to them reminded me of stories of people getting their windows smashed or even peppered-sprayed through an open window as happened to a Jewish family of seven in New York back in October by anti-Trump protestors. I began to wonder what would happen if my SUV was attacked? Or what if my 18-year old son had been involved in a scuffle at the rally he had attended two weeks earlier? What if any of my kids were attacked for no other reason than that they encountered a mob of protestors by chance?
Part of me felt tears welling up in my eyes at the thought of anyone close to me, but especially my kids, being hurt in anyway. But another part of me felt a a kind of rage of what I would do if such a thing did happen. As someone who used to be a bouncer at bars in my past, I felt the same kind of rush of adrenaline and the hyper-vigilance it creates when you start to see the tell-tale signs that a fight is about to break out, as I drove passed those marchers. I could feel it welling up in my stomach and moving up till it came to rest behind my sinuses, as my hands tightly clenched the steering wheel and I fixated on watching their hands.
Later that afternoon, I had one of those “talks” that responsible fathers are supposed to have with their kids, with my middle son. I spoke to him about my concerns about being on the ground at these rallies and how it doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for trouble or not, because trouble will find you all on its own. About the difference between and desirability of getting “out” of a fight rather than getting “into” one, as well as “defending” one’s life and rights as opposed to “fighting” for them. But most of all, I wanted him to understand in no uncertain terms that there may be times in life where you may have to fight for a just cause. However, when such an event occurs there is no more deadly weapon to bring to the fight than a mind perfected by grace and a will disciplined by virtue to do what is necessary, and only, what is necessary to bring an end to the hostilities. Afterwards, he assured me he understood and told me that he had no plans of attending more of these rallies, and that he would more wary of where he went in the future.
What are You Gonna do When They Come for You?
In the 2000 movie Patriot, there is a scene where members of the South Carolina General Assembly are voting on whether to pass a levy to fund the Continental Army in a war against Great Britain. Benjamin Martin (played by Mel Gibson) calls for a peaceful resolution with the British, because he warns, “mark my words, this war will not be fought on the frontier or on some distant battlefield, but amongst us. Among our homes. Our children will learn of it of their own eyes.” When the Colonel of the Continental Army, and Martin’s old commanding officer during the French and Indian War, asks what of Martin’s principles, Martin answers, “I am a parent, I can’t afford the luxury of principles.”
In terms of his last point, I whole heartedly disagree. It is precisely because I am a parent that I recognize the necessity of having principles to live by, in my case my Catholic faith. Which is why I felt the need to have the kind of talk I did with my son. It was not something that I would have thought of having decade ago, but ever since BLM emerged on the scene back in 2015 the topic has been on my mind from time to time. Since then the list of active participants in our nation’s cultural wars has only grown with Antifa, the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo movement, and the rather obscure John Brown Gun Club. Thus, it is certainly something that is both fitting and needed in the times we live in. Especially if you are the parent of a teenager, since it is precisely that age that these “Justice” agitators and “mob-litias” prey on with their diatribe and dreck to woo the aimless, the bored, and disaffected youths of America to fill their ranks.
In terms of Martin's dire warning about the reality of war, his words were both historically accurate and grimly prescient of our times. The Revolutionary War was in some ways America's first “civil” war in that not only did the battles take place in people’s home turf, but it pit Torries against Patriots which drove many a bitter wedge between neighbors and families. It is plain to see that America is going through another one of these power struggles between nationalism and federalism, with the added accelerant of a post-Christian tribalism, and the battlefield is both online and all around us. The majority of the fighting is done with information (including the mis- and dis- kinds of information) that has been weaponized to incite and agitate, since it is far easier to sway low-information citizens with hype and hyperbole to do what you want than it is to force them. Nevertheless, it has at times tragically been fought with weapons such as the Navy vet who was shot and killed by an unlicensed security guard at a Patriot Muster outside a Denver civic center or the Patriot Prayer member who was stalked and shot point blank by a deranged Antifa adherent in Portland, Oregan.
Regardless of how the election is finally resolved, rest assured it is really hard to see how 2021 will see any sort of end to the protests and acts of violence we have seen recently. Our nation and culture have been primed for this ongoing struggle to the death (figurative and literally) for quite awhile now and sooner or later it will come to a head. After all, when you have on one side the Arizona GOP and Stop the Steal member Ali Akbar saying, “I am willing to give my life to this fight” and on the other you have Michigan Democratic state rep Cynthia Jones calling for “soldiers for black and brown people” to “rise up” and “make Trumpers pay”, you can pretty much count on another wild ride for the upcoming year. And just like I explained to my son, you don’t need to purchase a ticket for this ride, it’s open to the public and it will make a stop in a neighborhood near you. The question is, are you ready for it when it comes for you?
Photo Credit- bet.net