Charlottesville: Hard Truths

At this writing, we are a few days removed from some terrible events in Charlottesville Virginia. I have been asked for thoughts and advice, and that is the only reason for this post. I do not want to touch this subject at all and will try to keep things within the confines of the intended purpose of this blog. People have asked my thoughts on what happened, but more have asked about staying safe in such incidents. I will focus my thoughts on those questions of personal safety. Be forewarned though, trying to stay apolitical on something like this isn’t easy. And in our time, politics brings out strong emotional reactions in many people. If you find yourself getting angry over what I present here today, may I recommend a nice chamomile tea?

There was a scheduled rally in Charlottesville by a white supremacist group. There was a counter-protest that arrived and was staged by several violent leftist groups. There was no good that would result from any of this. In this instance, both sides were acting like animals, both sides were upping the levels of violence, and in the end, a 32-year-old woman was killed and dozens more injured when one of the white supremacists used his car to plow through a group of people on the road. While the details were not predictable, the violence was. Something bad was going to happen there.

The question that kept coming up from my readers was how do you stay safe in these situations?

For a really great start, understand that both sides in this mess planned to be there ahead of time. Not spontaneous, the event was planned. To stay safe, one could begin with not going there in the first place. No good can come from such events, there are no positive results to be had. As an outsider, I look at what happened quite simply – two groups looking for trouble. I don’t see anything to lead me to believe either side intended to be peaceful. When you are bringing shields and baseball bats to a rally I find it hard to believe you were only there to sing kumbaya. When you hear about a rally or a riot “protest” that will be taking place at this place and time, avoid that place at that time. The math on this isn’t complicated. You stand a much better chance of not being caught up in a riot if you avoid the places where these “protests” are being held.

Next, if you happen to stumble upon a riot in progress, get out of there immediately. You should be able to see something going on before you are actually in the middle of it if you are paying attention. But in a worst case scenario, once you see where you are and what is happening, get out.

All of this might seem a little too simplistic, or possibly even dismissive of the feelings people have for the various political issues of the day. But understand, your safety is 100% your responsibility, and there are legal liabilities involved in participating in a “protest” if things go wrong. Do you feel so strongly about an issue that you would risk your freedom, even if the only result of your protest and jail time is that people will know you are angry? Or consider what if things go horribly wrong and you get killed by a “protester” from the other side of the political spectrum, will your last thought be that you died doing what was right, or will it be that you wish you had stayed home?

There is a now famous photograph of the moment the car hit the crowd. In this photo (not shared here because I do not want to violate copyright), one of the victims of the crash is still in the air. His left leg is bent at an extremely awkward angle. His arms are outstretched to try to brace for the impact with the ground. But the look in his eyes is one of confusion and doubt. In my mind, I automatically ascribed a thought to the expression – why am I even here?

I could be wrong about that, but as one human being looking at the facial expression of another human being, I don’t think I am far off-base.

It would be cool if everyone could be nice, and understand each other, but right now people don’t want to understand – they want to dominate. If you can avoid this thought pattern, and if you can wean yourself off of the political brainwashing news source that you follow (I’m talking to people on both sides here), you can bring back some sanity into your life. These aren’t the answers that some people want, I know. But if you are going to be safe, but you want to go to political protests in your spare time, you need to rethink your priorities.

And a word in parting to the young people out there who feel a need to be a part of nonsense like this. You need to know two things going in. One; you will not achieve the results you hope to achieve. For all of the lip service given to the ephemeral starting a dialogue, rioting only further divides people and lessens the chance of any dialogue because the other side will see you as an animal completely devoid of logic. Two; There are people in power who will drive these demonstrations in a direction that makes violence inevitable. These people risk nothing because the angry youth are willing to riot and burn and kill and die, and they will use the mess to their own personal gain. You do not matter to them, which further emphasizes the pointlessness of the entire exercise.

In sum; don’t go to places where there is predictably going to be violence. If you find yourself in such a place, leave immediately. Never underestimate the level of violent insanity that large groups of people will commit when agitated, and don’t think that one psycho will not attack a group. If you want to make a difference, volunteer at a V.A. hospital or drive for Meals on Wheels. Put your energy into something productive. If you want to help people, actually help people. Don’t add to the reputation of a generation of people who know nothing other than an endless list of complaints. You can do and be so much more than that.