The violence on both sides

The kinds of violence that we are seeing in protests, on campuses and in Charlottesville will likely only continue to escalate. I’m surprised that it hasn’t been worse, frankly, but I’m grateful that we’ve been able to hold it together — but the kinds of violence we are seeing are symptoms of a social sickness, and hence the answer is not to condemn the violence itself, despite how affirming it may feel. President Trump does what he always does: heap as much blame for the violence on liberals and the left as is humanly possible (hence “violence on both sides”). The left justifies itself and condemns fascist violence. But condemning violence completely misses the point of what is happening in our society.

Our institutions and our economy are deeply compromised. Both right and left agree that our democracy is broken: politicians serve the highest bidder rather than popular opinion. Lobbyists not only buy the favor of politicians, they also write all of our legislation.

Our judicial system has failed. They have been thoroughly corrupted, and this has been happening over decades. People of color can be shot by police officers who are then acquitted by a grand jury. African-Americans have long been the targets of “the war on drugs” which in effect has resulted in mass incarcerations that have disproportionately affected them.

Our infrastructure is failing. The for-profit healthcare system is only working to generate profit and not to serve the people. Education costs are so high that graduating from a reputable institution means six figure debt. And wages for the middle-class remain stagnant — our economy is structured so that the economic benefits that we all work to produce go upward, to the wealthy class. Wealth inequality is at historic highs, like back in the old days of Carnegie and Rockefeller and Morgan.

We no longer have any shred of respect around the world, and to top it off, the President is a blowhard whose most memorable moments occur on social media.

We need deep reform. Many of us have been talking about this for years. Obama even campaigned on it in 2008, but he failed to bring about the kind of true and substantial change that we needed, to root out the corruption. Now we are left with the fallout, and I only see violence increasing. With more violence and more social chaos, it becomes all the more difficult for a leader to come along who can bring people together. Failing a leader who can unify us and bring reform, we could be looking at a Civil War, or perhaps a totalitarian leader steps into the gap.

You may think that this sounds far-fetched. But just imagine, for example, if a militant black movement were to arise, like the Black Panthers. The right would completely lose their shit and many would immediately take up arms.

We faced a similar situation, back during the Great Depression. If it weren’t for FDR, America as we know it would likely have collapsed/exploded/imploded, but he implemented common-sense reforms that worked, that restored confidence back into society. Over time, many of FDR’s reforms have been dismantled. After many decades of attacks, the social reforms he implemented have been severely compromised, sometimes rolled back entirely.

We aren’t going to fix this by condemning violence. Violence is just the symptom, not the cause. The cause is corruption, for which we need true reform.

Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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