Do you remember when Barack Obama was first running for the Presidency, way back in 2008? Watching the conversation about Obama was positively unnerving. It drove me to distraction. This is so often the case with the American conversation. Back in 2008, the conversation was often about whether or not Obama was a Muslim. Obama was widely condemned for the Christian church that he attended because of controversial statements by his Christian pastor, but the conversation in America often turned to the question of his actual religion. A widely discussed theory was that Obama was a “secret Muslim”. I recall a conversation on AOL where a woman claimed that Obama had “Muslim lips.” How does one answer that? There is no such thing. And of course, there is the fairly infamous event where John McCain held a campaign event, and a bigoted older woman claimed that she could not trust Obama because he was, “an Arab”, in her words.
To his credit, Senator McCain said, “no Mam. He’s a decent family man, citizen, who I happen to have disagreements with…”. McCain was credited with correcting he woman as he took the mic away from her. But, the correction bothers me. While Obama was and is a decent family man, etc, and while he is not an Arab, as the woman theorized, there is nothing indecent about being an Arab, nor is it inconsistent with being a good member of a family. And…Obama’s lips are just lips. McCain meant no harm by how he corrected the woman, but in the American conversation, the lesson was not correctly learned.
A similar thing is happening now regarding the Capitol Police, and their response to the attempted insurrection on Capitol Hill on January 6th. It is often stated that, had the insurrectionist mob been Black Lives Matter, the response would have been different. In fact, when BLM did protest, the protestors were met with a much stiffer, much more violent response. The fact that gets lost in this comparison is that BLM is not an insurrectionist movement. BLM would not have tried to lay siege to the Capitol building. The violence that has occurred during protests where BLM is present has been coincidental to the protest, and not the purpose of it. BLM engages in non-violent protest, and not in insurrection.
While it is true that BLM would have been met with a different response, the comparison is not apt. What results from such comparisons is that movements like BLM are considered to be complementary opposites of groups like Q-anon, or even broad, enthusiastic Trump support. BLM is not exclusive, although the way that it is commonly defined and discussed is as though it is. BLM is not asserting a zero-sum position. There is no rational, sensible, decent reason to oppose any person, or group of people asserting their right to life and safety. Conversely, any political position or candidate can reasonably have opposition. And further, a conspiracy theory which is founded on the dark fantasies of Satan worship, and pedophilia, and asserting the falsehood of government conspiracy does reasonably have opposition. It is literally not true and opposed by reality itself.
I think these two concepts should receive different responses from law enforcement, and I believe the vast majority of people agree. That is part of the problem with the American conversation. The comparison allows lack of scrutiny about what is being compared, and allows one to draw conclusions about elements which damage understandings going forward.
BLM seeks to address conditions that are real, and essentially asks to be left alone. Q-anon, and even Donald Trump himself, seek to disrupt that which is real, and status quo, armed with fictional nonsense, and lies, and deprive others of something which is rightfully theirs, namely peace. Indeed, the responses by the Capitol police are inconsistent, and they should be. That is why it is a bad comparison rhetorically. The responses should not be the same. They should be reversed. And BLM is disparaged by the mere comparison. A better comparison would be the Confederacy, or some other illegal such conspiracy.
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