The country’s gotten so bad, it’s a wonder people aren’t picking up guns in order to settle matters themselves. At least, that’s what you’d believe given the words coming from Black Lives Matter and other groups.
Violent rhetoric is a staple of political oratory: think, the “war on women,” “war on Christians,” and so forth. Sometimes this language is metaphorical and harmless (say, Martin Luther King’s use of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”), other times it’s hyperbolic.
In the case of the “pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon” chant from Black Lives Matter protesters – which one activist says was intended to be “playful” – it’s hard to see it as being anything other than a literal call to arms.
The words of “King Noble,” a self-professed member of the movement, are even more clear: “it’s open season on killing whites and white police officers … we are moving to a time where the predator will become the prey.”
It’s true that there are a number of cases of black males being shot by (or dying in the custody of) police that are troubling, to say the least: Samuel Dubose, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Chavis Carter, Victor White III, and Levar Jones. But it’s not as if police in general are simply going out and intentionally killing African-Americans. If that were true, there would be thousands more shootings and deaths at the hands of police.
Yet that’s the false apocalypse that’s behind the call for police to be targeted. Even if they don’t support “King Noble’s” declaration, many members of Black Lives Matter describe a situation so hopeless that it’s hard to understand why they wouldn’t. If “the police” are wantonly killing black people, then why respond with pacifism? Why not pick up a gun and shoot the police first?
That’s what happened with the killings of detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos last year in New York City, who wrote on his Instagram account, “I’m putting Wings on Pigs Today.” It’s what may have also happened with the killing of sheriff’s deputy Darren Goforth.
But Black Lives Matter isn’t the only group whose members sometimes give in the the temptation to describe their plight as cataclysmic, so much so that you have to wonder why they don’t just pick up a gun. We hear over and over that there’s a war on women, on liberty, on Christians, on freedom of speech, or that there are forces pushing the country inexorably into racism, fascism, communism, theocracy, or some form of degeneracy so horrible that it seems odd to vote merely against it. Shouldn’t we be overthrowing it instead?
I know I take a risk in saying this, that someone might read it and say, “Yeah, we’re not doing enough to combat this, the political process is too little, too late. The time has come for bullets, not ballots.” But what I’m going for is the opposite: the fact that the vast majority of us have ruled out violence comes from a recognition that the rhetoric we hear is overblown.
I can’t think of anything going on in this country that makes it worth picking up a gun and shooting people. Can you?
Take abortion: if the pro-life movement is really a crusade to deprive women of the right to control their own bodies, or if the pro-choice movement is really committing something on par with the Holocaust, then aren’t markers and poster-board a disproportionately weak response? Or is it really the rhetoric that’s outsized and exaggerated?
I’m not saying that there’s nothing worth fighting for on abortion, or in the Black Lives Matter movement, or a host of other political causes. But we’ve all clearly chosen to understand “fighting” not as literal bloodshed, but as engaging in the peaceful political process. Which is just to say that, on some level, the vast majority of people who indulge in “war” or other apocalyptic rhetoric realize that they’re being melodramatic.
A suggestion: let’s play things safe, and stop being melodramatic.
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