The strength to take action
Several days ago, I thought I was going to write this column about the purported Patriot Day Rally to exercise Second Amendment Rights in Kentucky. During the rally, some whack job drove up in a pickup truck, brought out an effigy of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and hung it from a tree, with a note around it that said “sic semper tyrannis.” You know, the same thing John Wilkes Booth screamed after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln because he thought the South, and all the “values” he projected onto it, would rise again.
I planned to focus, though, on the man at the rally who did something about it.
“There’s a gentleman that came up. He was pretty upset about it, and he cut it down. And he was like this has no place at this rally. We’re trying to be peaceful,” according to freelance journalist Gerry Seavo James, who was speaking to another media outlet.
I wanted to encourage us all to be more like that unnamed man who saw a wrong and understood if no one else was acting, it was HIS responsibility to call it what it was and make it right.
Then George Floyd was murdered.
When I heard protests after the murder had turned into riots, that there were fires and broken glass, I thought oh no, here come the “two wrongs don’t make a right; and shame on them for damaging property instead of peacefully protesting” folks who have no problem tut-tutting about the response, but were absolutely silent about Floyd’s murder. Or Ahmaud Arbery’s. Or any of the sickeningly long list of victims that goes back centuries.
Yep, it’s true. Damaging property, looting and putting other people’s lives in danger are, indeed, crimes.
Think then, for a moment, what kind of generational outrage, frustration and fear it must take to drive people to that kind of lashing out — to push people to the understanding that time after time after time of turning the other cheek and trying to make change peacefully had failed them.
And make no mistake. What is tolerated on a daily basis should spark outrage, too. But we don’t just turn the other cheek; we turn away.
Think about the difference between a leader allegedly supported by more than half the nation who calls one group of violent protesters “thugs” and another group “some very good people.”
After Arbery was murdered, a friend of mine posted on social media an explanation for those of us who have been able to choose not to think about it of what it is like to grow up knowing the color of your skin makes you a target. Still.
She was quieter after Minneapolis exploded. I am worried she has grown so tired she is giving up. She and so many others have been fighting without much help for so long.
There have to be more of us like that man in Kentucky. There have to be more of us who say racism is wrong; and those who ignore it or intentionally fail to understand it are just as guilty as those who act on it.
There have to be more of us who say racism (or xenophobia, homophobia, sexism … all those cherished forms of hate) have no place here.
But, here’s the key, there have to be more willing to step up like that man in Kentucky did and DO something about it.
Throwing your hands up and saying “This is still happening in 2020?!” and then never making another peep is NOT doing something about it.
Here’s a start: If politicians have proven to you that they gleefully represent only white, male, straight, native born West Virginians, vote them out in June. They are not doing their jobs if they have told you they think of some parts of our population as being worthy of different treatment from others.
If a friend of yours doesn’t get it, or worse, continues to speak and behave in a way that indicates he or she holds values that haven’t evolved since about 1850, talk to them about it. Ask them to examine the way they think, and what they were taught. (Gently, please. No one has ever changed their position on a matter after being called “stupid,” “trash,” or even “deplorable.”)
I’m rambling, I know. It’s hard for me to figure out how to focus this helpless feeling. It doesn’t do much good to screech “We have to DO something,” does it?
But I can’t tell you how to find your own way to take action. That’s up to you.
Do it so there will not be other generations of young people who wonder how this is still happening in 2030 … or 2040.
Do it so you will know you did what you could to stop it. Now.
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org