Updated: May 21
Violence comes in many different forms: mass shootings, hate speech, lying, racial prejudice, intimidation, abuse. Even ignorance is a form of violence if it comes as a result of laziness and is used as a blunt force object to silence dissent.
The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps careful track of violence associated with racial animus, hateful prejudice, and political extremism. Their mission statement reads:
The SPLC is the premier U.S. non-profit organization monitoring the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists – including the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazi movement, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, antigovernment militias, Christian Identity adherents and others.
We’re currently tracking more than 1,600 extremist groups operating across the country. We publish investigative reports, train law enforcement officers and share key intelligence, and offer expert analysis to the media and public.
Sometimes love itself is perceived as violent by those who are dedicated to hate, so not all perceived violence is wrong, but in general, our language typically betrays our deeper nature, whether as a person or an organization, and ye shall know a tree by the fruit it bears, or a person by the words they use. What I most admire about the Civil Rights movement was its insistence, in both its speech and actions, to countenance peace and love in everything it said and did.
Hate will not defeat hate. Only love can do that. But in the interim, there are many things that we, the Middle Majority, can do to stop the mainstreaming of hate in this country. We can organize marches, attend rallies, write to our elected representatives (who work for all us in any given district, not just some of us), and we can gather together to strategize next steps.
But are we too late? And even if we're not, will we actually do it? So many of us have become so accustomed to sipping our lattes while burying our heads in the sands of social media and news organizations that we happen to subscribe to and whatever other forms of distraction we've grown dependent upon that we've all developed a kind of collective inertia, hoping that someone else takes care of the problem so that we can continue to live our lives in the way we see fit. Are we, to put it another way, a little too lat(t)e?
Truth is, we live in a violent culture that is largely perpetuated by the things we love: guns, violent movies and videos, aggressive lyrics, offensive politics, violent sports, and less obviously violent activities like eating meat, driving gas-guzzling cars, and supporting sectors of the economy that are doing harm to our planet. We have become accustomed to violence. It is a part of our American DNA. But the Far Right has taken it to a new level, and I live in a part of the country where "Fuck Biden" and "Harris is a Bitch" signs are everywhere, on car and truck bumperstickers and posted placards on porches. Hate is the new normal, and it has been turned into the normal way of communicating for the Far Right. Have you watched FOX News lately or listened to one of the Far Right radio talk shows or checked out one of the many patriotic American church sermons, many of them available online? Because if you haven't, you really must, just to get a sense of the opposition in real time. You'll be sick to your stomach 5 minutes in, assuming of course, that you haven't already become inured to it because of a steady diet of the same.
Indeed, what's so deeply troubling about the situation with the Far Right is how the evangelical church in America continues to aid and abet its hateful ways and has become a version of the German Church in the 1930s, and the charismatic churches in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s-90s, and the Russian Orthodox Church in this century, all so-called "Christian" churches that aided and abetted violent regimes, as if hate in the name of some political agenda, or moral issue, or call to patriotism somehow exonerated the vile acts being done in Jesus' name; as if Jesus is happy to turn his back on his Sermon on the Mount for the sake of some political or patriotic agenda. Seems to me that in cases like that, no millstone is big enough. And make no mistake. Many of these new "evangelicals" are simply wolves in sheep's clothing who care more about the Kingdom of the USA than the Kingdom of God, Donald Trump than Jesus Christ, and the words of Tucker Carlson more deeply than the words of St. Paul.
But imagine if the Middle Majority, both Republican and Democrat alike, was able to form a coalition of people interested in preserving democracy and who were able, just for a time, to put the pet issues and causes of their political affiliations aside for that one reality that allows all the other issues to get a hearing: democracy. What if we gathered in the streets and coffee shops and bible studies and bars and strategized for ways to move forward? What if the Middle Majority, largely silent of late, became the unifying force in American politics and American civil life and discourse? Because if we don't soon, when all of these ways of organizing are still possible, it may be too late. The Right has shown its complete willingness to say and do whatever it takes to win, including silencing dissenting voices and trying to actively steal elections.
But can we do this? And if so, how? And when should we start? And where? And with whom? All very excellent questions, which I'll ponder while I sip my latte.