With the advent of the recent violence in Charlottesville, I believe that we are destined for one of two possible outcomes:
- A further escalation in violence, leading to paramilitaries vying for supremacy domestically.
2. A government move to maintain “law and order” by stripping citizens of large amounts of freedom to assemble, and targeting/banning certain political philosophies by branding them “domestic terrorist organizations”.
The preferable third option, the one in which American citizens actually engage each other in constructive dialogue, and create compromises that are beneficial to all is simply a tiny glimmer of hope, in which the sentimental will seek refuge longing for a highly romanticized past.
In one of my previous pieces I wrote about the emergence of the “Proud Boys” and their subsidiary the “Fraternal Order of the Alt Knights”, and received some heat from overzealous Right wingers, but the point of the piece itself was to highlight the mentality of American politics in the present day, and to caution against creating yet another faction dedicated to dogmas and unwilling to engage and compromise (which the American system of governance relies on to work).
It doesn’t matter that the Proud Boys abstained from involvement in Charlottesville, because they were replaced by another faction, the neo-Nazis and white nationalists who also believe themselves to be true nationalists. That is the political reality of the times. We are slowly, yet undeniably, breaking this nation apart in the interest of preserving labels which cannot be altered in the slightest.
These factions do not represent the whole of the nation, yet, they are the dominant voices which are spurred by sensationalist media outlets who seek to exploit tragedy for gain in the relentless 24-hour ratings game we call the “news”.
The majority of Americans, the reasonable ones, are complicit in this breaking of the nation as well. Instead of engaging civically, many chose to sit out the last presidential election and choose to regularly sit out in local elections, which are the greatest opportunities for change the ordinary citizen can hope for. Those in the middle continue to patronize mainstream outlets to confirm their own biases or, even worse, ignore politics altogether and escape into trivial entertainments saying they’re “too burned out” when it comes to determining those who we allow to rule us.
Yes, I said rule us, because the idea of self-determinism is all but dead in the American nanny-state today…but, that’s another topic for another day.
So, without the ability to compromise and find common ground between “liberals” and “conservatives” (whatever those labels even mean anymore), that leaves the two options above as the most plausible courses American culture will take. What is interesting about the first option, the probability that violence will overtake rule of law, is that in at least two of the most violent riots in 2017, Berkeley and now Charlottesville, it seems as though the law-enforcement present were ordered to hold back despite escalating tensions. In fact, if we think back to the Trump inauguration when the Antifa were let loose to destroy property in D.C. or even thinking back to the Black Lives Matter riots in Baltimore when the Mayor stated:
“It’s a very delicate balancing act. Because while we try to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well…”
One has to wonder if this abdication of responsibility on the part of law enforcement is due to actual impotence or incompetence, or if it’s intentional.
If this is the result of incompetence then the first scenario is much more likely to play out. The Roman Republic, in its decline, underwent a series of civil wars and gang violence alternating with ruthless crackdowns by despots. The pre-Nazi Weimar Republic was rife with factional violence which ultimately ended with multiple factions uniting to put down the “common enemy”, the Communists. As a result, Germany gave rise to the National Socialist movement. Much like the push brought to the fore in Charlottesville, a call to “Unite the Right”, it is entirely probably that Right wingers in their hatred for the Antifa specifically, and all things Left in general, will have no problem blending their excessive nationalism with this ethno-identitarian mindset.
We’ve seen the beginning of this in Charlottesville, so the question if scenario one plays out is really, ‘Who will prevail?’. History repeats itself.
The second possible scenario is that this impotent response to violent riots in major cities around the country is intentional.
It’s always far easier to infringe on the rights of the citizenry when “safety” is the prime objective to be achieved. How many rackets have been perpetrated against the American people in the name of safety? How many illegitimate encroachments of government have been executed to make the people feel safe?
The PATRIOT Act would’ve never succeeded had the people not been acting out of a place of fear, and now mass government surveillance (among many other things) is the norm. Fear is quintessential means of controlling the masses, and has been exploited by governments for gain throughout history time and time again. Why should it be any different now?
It’s very likely that, due to our inability to hash out conflicts in the marketplace of ideas, the government will declare certain ideas as “dangerous” and start passing laws against association with groups like Antifa or the various white supremacist organizations in the U.S. and further limit the conditions under which the citizenry can protest, which many people will support initially. However, if we don’t solve the actual problems with political discourse in our country, people will continue to act violently prompting further government intervention and harsher crackdowns on personal freedoms.
There is no good solution right now short of people abandoning extreme identity politics and learning, once again, that art of coexisting with people from a myriad of different backgrounds. We must reaffirm our first principles as Americans, choose to listen openly to those who disagree with us, and put government back into its proper role.
Short of accomplishing those goals, the forecast doesn’t look too sunny for the future of the American Republic.