don’t punch left when monsters dance on your right

The blame game has gone on for about three months now and it’s really time to stop.

It’s time to come together and build a real, broad coalition of resistance.

Every time you find yourself posting online, We need to focus on the future, but… and then go on to blame communists, anarchists, socialists, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, working class whites, working class non-specific, the Midwest, the Southeast, non-voters, Putin, or whoever else, you stifle what you say you’re seeking.

We can’t build a coalition by first demanding apologies from everyone who isn’t us. Firstly, there’s no point to it. Secondly, you’re making a demand of someone you hope to embrace in open cooperation, which is the opposite of a cooperative starting point.

A lot of people were wrong. In fact, every major publication in the world was wrong about the outcome of this US election. If you think the blame belongs somewhere, maybe just accept that almost every single one of us was wrong about the election.

That doesn’t mean everyone was wrong about everything.

Hillary Clinton committed war crimes as Secretary of State. That’s not a debatable opinion. That’s just something that happened. It’s a fact.

The Obama Administration committed numerous war crimes and spied on us and our allies and tortured whistleblowers and tortured prisoners and repealed civil liberties and extended executive powers and empowered the Patriot Act. Also not an opinion. Those are things that happened.

And similar things have happened with every US Administration going back to at least Teddy Roosevelt, but probably back to Andrew Jackson, and then maybe even farther.

We have done terrible things as a nation. We have done them unrepentantly. We have done them for as long as we’ve been a nation. Genocide, slavery, and other crimes against humanity are in the fabric of our national identity. These things happened. They happened and we need to account for the fact that they happened when we move forward.

But we need to move forward. We need to understand where we were, what we supported, and how to move forward to make sure none of this happens again. We must remember the past and hold it tightly because our collective crimes are our burden as a people, as a nation.

Because Trump and Bannon are demanding that we relive the worst moments of American history again, right now, and for as long as they hold power. They want genocide. They want war. They want surveillance. They want bombs. They want christian supremacy. They want white supremacy. They want fascism. They want poverty, death, and total control and all the economic advantages that come with that place of power.

It’s not about demanding apologies or standing on a soapbox to tell everyone how right you were or how you are blameless.

And it’s not about when you joined the movement or became politically active. If you didn’t care yesterday but care a whole lot today, that should be good enough.

We are all to blame. Wherever you stand politically and whoever you voted for and for whatever reason you voted that way–we all did this. Together. As a nation.

This is our country. It’s not just a place we live. We are all complicit in the actions of our government because we allow them to govern us. We give them their power through voting, through consent, through passivity, through apathy.

And so we need to build a way forward, together.

Stop punching left, especially. Stop accusing those who have spent their lives as activists, as lawyers defending civil liberties, as confrontational journalists who demand more and hold power accountable just because they disagreed with you.

They had reasons to do what they did, just as you had reasons to do what you did. Also remember that being critical of one powerful person was not an endorsement of a different powerful person.

Unfortunately, there’s no longer a place for moderates in American politics. Being a moderate right now is being complicit with Bannon and Trump. To seek a compromise with them right now is to lose parts of yourself.

You cannot seek compromise with someone seeking genocide and widespread poverty and slavery. There is no compromise to be made that will not reduce you as a human. The only response is defiance, non-compliance, and resistance.

These are the people standing to your right: Nazis, white supremacists, christian supremacists, con men, fascists, and robber barons.

If you look to your left and still see enemies, then maybe you need to look harder at yourself.

What do you really want? Is it acknowledgement of your righteousness? Is it for someone to just tell you that you’re right? Is it for someone to take the blame of what 350 million people decided? Is it to mince words and argue about the right way to resist or talk about resistance? The right way to be a progressive, to be an American, to be a journalist?

We’ve all done this. I don’t exclude myself from this.

This isn’t a call out.

And if you need an apology, you don’t deserve one.

I will say that I was wrong. I was wrong about so many things about this election. And about a lot of other things too. I’m often wrong, and I’m often wrong about most things.

And while that might matter a bit, we have more pressing concerns.

So look to your left and take someone’s hand. It’s time to stand together.

Then look right, with your brothers and sisters, and hold that line, because there are monsters rushing our way and all they seek is blood.

not doing

Those who think to win the world
by doing something to it,
I see them come to grief.
For the world is a sacred object.
Nothing is to be done to it.
To do anything to it is to damage it.
To seize it is to lose it.

Under heaven some things lead, some follow,
some blow hot, some cold,
some are strong, some weak,
some are fulfilled, some fail.

So the wise soul keeps away
from the extremes, excess, extravagance.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

The earth is sacred and 2,500 years after this was written, we’ve irrevocably damaged the earth through greed, excess, war, and gluttony. The earth will survive us, but we will not survive it.

We have treated it like a tomb to loot and in doing so we’ve reduced ourselves to scavengers, to looters, to vermin spreading a disease. Bacteria consuming the earth, stripping its bones clean and drinking its blood.

The Tao asks us to find a balance, and we’ve spun terribly off-kilter as a species.

And so how do we find that balance? Where is the balance to be found on a sinking ship?

I wish I had an answer for this, too. And maybe the best we can do is find a new equilibrium with this dying world. The ship will keep sinking, but maybe we can give it a gentle embrace before it pulls us under?

I know some want to harvest what’s left of its hull to escape to another ship, but I don’t think we deserve that.

And if we’re to honor ourselves and our world, we should go down with the ship. But maybe we can give it a soothing decline spread over centuries, rather than the sprint we’re running to our own demise.

The Tao is not about finding a new way. I don’t think it’s ever been that way, even when Lao Tzu wrote this all those centuries ago.

But, now, it requires that we find a new way, I think, or rediscover an old way. A way through these centuries of violence and industrialization.

Not to return to the past, but to find a balance in our lives that’re inundated with constant streams of information. Information terror is the world we live in. We reduce ourselves by flooding our heads with so much. We lose ourselves in the constant deluge of information.

For me, it means trying to close that valve a bit. Spending more time with human bodies. When I shut off my work computer at the end of the day, I leave my phone there, too. I’ll play on my laptop during the night, but I try to do that more and more frequently.

Instead I try to spend more real time with my wife, with my cat, with my friends. Working with my hands instead of just spending all day thinking, consuming information. Because if there’s a balance that needs to be found, it begins for me with me. I’ve trailed into the wilddeeps of information overload since I was 18, and while I wouldn’t trade the last ten years or all the information and knowledge I’ve accrued through the dense swamp of constant information, I no longer need that level of constant feedback.

More than not needing, I know it’s reducing me, hollowing me out, making me unhappy.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop paying attention. That I’m giving up on being informed or that I’ll let my country continue to spin out of control (something it’s been doing for decades but has definitely accelerated in the last weeks) without saying a word about it.

It’s about finding a balance. To get off my computer and out of the digital and get back into the world of bodies and hands and mouths.

turning back

Knowing man
and staying woman,
be the riverbed of the world.
Being the world’s riverbed
of eternal unfailing power
is to go back again to be newborn.

Knowing light
and staying dark,
be a pattern to the world.
Being the world’s pattern
of eternal unerring power
is to go back again to boundlessness.

Knowing glory
and staying modest,
be the valley of the world.
Being the world’s valley
of eternal inexhaustible power
is to go back again to the natural.

Natural wood is cut up
and made into useful things,
Wise souls are used
to make into leaders.
Just so, a great carving
is done without cutting.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Le Guin’s commentary:

The simplicity of Lao Tzu’s language can present an almost impenetrable density of meaning. The reversals and paradoxes in this great poem are the oppositions of the yin and yang–male/female, light/dark, glory/modesty–but the “knowing and being” of them, the balancing act, results in neither stasis nor synthesis. The riverbed in which power runs leads back, the patterns of power lead back, the valley where power is contained leads back–to the forever new, endless, straightforward way. Reversal, recurrence, are the movement, and yet the movement is onward.

Le Guin introduces the terms yin and yang–terms most people have probably heard but never used properly–and it should click into place with all the previous paradoxes Lao Tzu’s presented in the Tao Te Ching. It’s why paradoxes make sense. Because the world is not just one way. It is a balance of things. And even that which seems absolute, like light or dark, hold pieces of each other within one another.

There is light in darkness. There is darkness in light.

A shadow can only exist because light is cast, for example.

And so the Tao asks us to balance life. Opposites have a way of meeting and melding.

Of course, there are times this isn’t true, and I must admit it’s difficult to think of the Tao and these lessons while my country descends into a visible totalitarian state. For decades we’ve been a totalitarian state in many ways, but it was always beneath the surface. Just deep enough that it could be denied if necessary.

Now we’re out in the open and it’s terrifying. More terrifying than I thought it would be. I thought things could never be worse than this subtle subterfuge where we pretend to be a democracy and free people while we decimate our own citizens and people around the world. Our imperialism has displaced and killed millions. Our power structures enslave and murder millions within america.

But now that we’re standing on the world stage and shedding our dark cloak of democracy for one bright and vibrant that screams Power, the world has become much scarier.

Because people I know are already being effected. Being crushed.

And it’s hard to see the balance to this.

It’s why I began these daily reflections on the Tao in the first place. To find another way. A way to live and resist. A way to fight without violence.

I hoped to find a new way in these ancient yet prescient words. But I don’t know if I can.

I don’t know how to neutralize this open wave of repugnance, of violence.

Of course, I see what’s happening. The way to resist is to mobilize. This has always been true. And so maybe the reason I can’t find another way is because the only way already exists.

Mobilization. Create a critical mass of human bodies and human empathy and we can turn back this terror. This endless and old and recklessly new terror.

And even while I seek to find a balance in this, I fear there is none beyond the simple confluence of authority and anarchy.

If our leaders demand we strip ourselves of humanity, we must cling to it harder, cloak ourselves in humanness, and link arms, screaming wildly that we will not accept this horror.

We will not break.

We will not compromise.

We demand to be human and we will not stop until the inhumane is turned back, thwarted, cowering in the bright lights of their ruined authority.

skill

Good walkers leave no tracks.
Good talkers don’t stammer.
Good counters don’t use their fingers.
The best door’s unlocked and unopened.
The best knot’s not in a rope and can’t be untied.

So wise souls are good at caring for people,
never turning their back on anyone.
They’re good at looking after things,
never turning their back on anything.
There’s a light hidden here.

Good people teach people who aren’t good yet;
the less good are the makings of the good.
Anyone who doesn’t respect a teacher
or cherish a student
may be clever, but has gone astray.
There’s a deep mystery here.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Tonight, all I can think of when reading this poem is that we must care for one another.

The Tao asks that we be good to one another. That we care. That we teach. That we respect. That we cherish.

Don’t turn your back on what’s happening. What we’ve all done as members of the Empire of America.

Be good to one another.

Care for everyone.

power of the heavy

Heavy is the root of light.
Still is the master of moving.

So wise souls make their daily march
with the heavy baggage wagon.

Only when safe
in a solid, quiet house
do they lay care aside,

How can a lord of ten thousand chariots
let his own person
weigh less in the balance than his land?
Lightness will lose him his foundation,
movement will lose him his mastery.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Taoism can be thought of as a dualistic philosophy, but I think it’s very much a reminder of materialism. In this poem, the baggage we all carry is the physical needs of our body. Or even the history of our life.

To leave it all behind, to try to become a purely spiritual entity is to leave half of us to dust. It makes no sense and is impossible. Whether we like it or not, we are our bodies and our bodies are us. So to act as if it doesn’t matter–as most dualism teaches or demands–is to lose so much of life.

The Tao asks us to understand and accept ourselves, and then to follow. Life is heavy. Pretending it is light doesn’t get you anywhere. It will only weigh you down, leave you disconnected from essential aspects of yourself.

Look at your past and your needs and understand them. Accept them. Embrace them.

Then move forward, carrying it all with you, knowing the importance of each moment, but being unburdened by them.

imagining mystery

There is something
that contains everything.
Before heaven and earth
it is.
Oh, it is still, unbodied,
all on its own, unchanging,

all-pervading,
ever-moving.
So it can act as the mother
of all things.
Not knowing its real name,
we only call it the Way.

If it must be named
let its name be Great.
Greatness means going on,
going on means going far,
and going far means turning back.

So they say: “The Way is great,
heaven is great,
earth is great,
and humankind is great;
four greatnesses in the world,
and humanity is one of them.”

People follow earth,
earth follows heaven,
heaven follows the Way,
the Way follows what is.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Le Guin’s commentary is great for this poem so I’ll share it:

I’d like to call the “something” of the first line a lump–an unshaped, undifferentiated lump, chaos, before the Word, before Form, before Change. Inside it is time, space, everything, in the womb of the Way.

The last words of the chapter, tzu jan, I render as “what is.” I was tempted to say, “The Way follows itself,” because the Way is the way things are; but that would reduce the significance of the words. They remind us not to see the Way as sovereignty or domination, all creative, all yang. The Way itself is a follower. Though it is before everything, it follows what is.

What I like about this commentary (and this poem) is that it reminds us that the Way is not god. Or, to put it another way, the Way has no dominion over us. The Way is like us. As we follow, so too does the Way follow.

The previous poems make it seem like the Tao is forever above and beyond us, but here we get a transformative definition. The Way is not a prescription of behavior or a demand on how we live. It is an invitation.

It is a question.

Asking us to follow the earth, heaven, and finally the Way itself, which follows itself.

I think this is why people associate circles with Taoism. Or maybe that’s just me. Or maybe that’s just human: to see circles or cycles in existence.

So much of the Tao Te Ching seems like circular logic fallacy, which, I think, is why it’s so easy for so many people to dismiss it outright. But I think this poem illustrates something different. Though it reminds us of circles and cycles, it’s more like a ball rolling ever forward than it is a line of thinking that continually brings you back to the beginning or the end of the argument.

Part of it is that the Tao is not an argument.

It is an invitation.

A question continually asked.

proportion

You can’t keep standing on tiptoe
or walk in leaps and bounds.
You can’t shine by showing off
or get ahead by pushing.
Self-satisfied people do no good,
self-promoters never grow up.

Such stuff is to the Tao
as garbage is to food
or a tumor to the body,
hateful.
The follower of the Way
avoids it.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

Another poem that seems self-explanatory, yes?

“Self-satisfied people do no good, / self-promoters never grow up.” is a fascinating idea and exceptionally relevant, I think, to the moment that is this dire week. But I won’t discuss that here. There’s simply too much to say about it.

But moving past that, this poem is especially relevant today, in the world we experience daily. Of course, when we look around us, it seems that those who push and self-promote are the ones who achieve most.

This is true, if you look at the world through a specific lens. If what you want is money and power, this is the way to it. Many people would say that they just want a lot of money so they can live in comfort, and there’s no reason not to believe them.

But what I find (and studies, too) is that the more wealth you gain, the more you need. Not because of greed or any malice, but because people tend to escalate their lifestyle to fit their income. Which means that, often, when people begin to make more money, they also tend to spend more money.

Just from purely anecdotal evidence, this should be obvious. The amount of money I need today to fit my lifestyle is incredibly more than what I needed just a few years ago. I think part of this is because poverty teaches you to not spend, even on things you want or need. And so when you start to make more money, you see it as an opportunity to finally have all those things you couldn’t have before.

Nothing wrong with that, but it is definitely why people have no concept of what middle class or poverty mean. Because you can have a family that takes in six figures who still feel like they barely have enough money to pay the bills at the beginning or end of each month, depending on when your bills are due.

And it’s why, I think, the previous poem is quite related to this.

The Tao doesn’t ask us to be poor. It asks us to look beyond these measures and consider our life in a much different way. To stop measuring ourselves. Instead, ask yourself if you’re happy. If this is what you want form life.

Because you will never get what you want by seeking value in exterior measures.

nothing and not

Nature doesn’t make long speeches.
A whirlwind doesn’t last all morning.
A cloudburst doesn’t last all day.
Who makes the wind and the rain?
Heaven and earth do.
If heaven and earth don’t go on and on,
certainly people don’t need to.

The people who work with Tao
are Tao people,
they belong to the Way.
People who work with power
belong to power.
People who work with loss
belong to what’s lost.

Give yourself to the Way
and you’ll be at home on the Way.
Give yourself to power
and you;ll be at home in power.
Give yourself to loss
and when you’re lost you’ll be at home.

To give no trust
is to get no trust.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

If what you seek is power, you will only be happy with power.

If what you seek is what was lost, then your only solace is in memories.

If what you seek is the Way, then you’re in luck, because the Way is all around us, waiting, moving.

There’s more that could be said about this poem by smarter people than me. But the center of this is that there are ways to view the world. Some are myopic while others are holistic. That’s not to say that the Way is the only way to see the world, or the only correct one. But it does make a point about power and loss.

If your goal is to Make America Great Again, you’re chasing ghosts and will never be satisfied because there are always more ghosts, always more imagined realities or real realities that we’ve left behind us.

You could even spin this into discussions of mental health. I think a lot of anxiety and depression are linked to thought processes that have us constantly turning backwards to better days, or to moments when we failed, made fools of ourselves.

If your goal is power, there will never be enough to gain. Your life will belong to this pursuit, and you will be consumed by it.

The Way is simpler. The Tao asks for much less and much more of us. More in that it asks that we look beyond ourselves and our specific contexts. Less because it asks that we do less within that context.

There’s nothing to be gained or lost with the Tao.

growing downward

Be broken to be whole.
Twist to be straight.
Be empty to be full.
Wear out to be renewed.
Have little and gain much.
Have much and get confused.

So wise souls hold to the one,
and test all things against it.

Not showing themselves,
they shine forth.
Not justifying themselves,
they’re self-evident.
Not praising themselves,
they’re accomplished.
Not competing,
they have in all the world no competitor.

What they used to say in the old days,
“Be broken to be whole,”
was that mistaken?
Truly, to be whole
is to return.

Lao Tzu
Ursula K Le Guin’s version

At this point, a poem like this should be very clear in its meaning, yes? It’s the same kind of reasoning that goes into the old maxim less is more. If you can follow that, you should be able to follow this.

And so I want to talk about my cat.

viggoHe’s a big fluffball, as you can see. It’s been interesting having a cat in the house, since I didn’t grow up with a cat and have only had very limited exposure to cats during my life. But he’s been our little buddy for about seven months now, and he’s nearing the end of his first year.

They’re peculiar creatures to live with, because they really are nothing like dogs. Chelsea warned me about this.

The day we were bringing him home, even, she told me not to expect him to even spend time with us. He was a kitten, removed from his family: he would likely be nervous and afraid and suspicious of us.

I guess this is normal for cats.

So I had no expectations, but this little guy has been an affectionate companion since the day we brought him home and he could fit comfortably in the palm of my hand.

He’s been a delight and has enriched our lives, even when he’s annoying as hell and acting like a maniac.

viggo1It’s a simple kind of companionship. An easy one. And it’s a beautiful one. The way he trusts us and desires our company. He doesn’t always sit or sleep with us, but it’s very unusual for him to be in a room without us. When we move to a new room in the house, he invariably follows, just to be near us.

It’s a hard thing for me to put my finger on, since his friendship is so different from my sweet Lily Belle’s friendship, but it’s no worse. Just different and interesting. Perhaps simpler, in that his expectations are so low. His desires so vast.Yet everything’s so simple. He wants to play, to eat, to poop, to sleep, and he wants us to be nearby, paying attention. He wants us to rub his head or under his chin, and sometimes he just wants something to kill so he can show us how fierce he is.

So I think of my cat when I read this poem because he’s such a small, simple aspect of my life, yet he enriches it in ways that are difficult to describe.

His easy friendship and love is a lesson, I think. That life is much simpler than we make it. That the more noise we add to our lives, the more disturbed and frayed it becomes.

To live simply, to love wholly, and to embrace in friendship those who desire it: what could make for a better life?

What shines brighter than this?

viggo2

punching nazis and pacifism

The above video of Nazi Richard Spencer getting punched in the face has gone viral and it’s led to predictably uninteresting discussions online about whether it’s okay or problematic to punch a Nazi/Fascist in the face.

So that’s what I’m going to talk about, since I’m a pacifist and I suppose I have things to say about this.

Like anarchy, I think pacifism is largely misunderstood, and wilfully so. The same is true of the anti-war movement or any other cause in america that’s seen as being outside of the normal political discourse.

For example, someone in the anti-war movement may not be a pacifist. In fact, they may support all kinds of violent action, including punching a Nazi in the face. Anti-war means, quite simply, that they’re against war on principle.

Pacifism, like most ideologies, exists on a spectrum. Here’s the wikipedia entry on it for those looking to get a short overview. But, in general, a pacifist opposes all forms of violence, from systemic to personal.

Of course, not all pacifists feel this way. One of the most famous and renowned pacifists in history is Mohatma Gandhi, who has a less than absolute perspective on the role of violence.

Here’s what Gandhi had to say about violence:

I do believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence I would advise violence. Thus when my eldest son asked me what he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me even by using violence… Hence also do I advocate training in arms for those who believe in the method of violence. I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour.

But I believe that non-violence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment…

He also had this to say:

Though violence is not lawful, when it is offered in self-defence or for the defense of the defenceless, it is an act of bravery far better than cowardly submission. The latter befits neither man nor woman. Under violence, there are many stages and varieties of bravery. Every man must judge this for himself. No other person can or has the right.

And also this:

Ever since my experience of the distortion of ahimsa (non-violence) in Bettiah in 1921, I have been repeating over and over again that he who cannot protect himself or his nearest and dearest or their honour by non-violently facing death, may and ought to do so by violently dealing with the oppressor. He who can do neither of the two is a burden. He has no business to be the head of a family. He must either hide himself, or must rest content to live for ever in helplessness and be prepared to crawl like a worm at the bidding of a bully.

When people think of pacifism and non-violent action, they often think of Gandhi. He didn’t invent either of these, but his actions were perhaps the most significant on the globe, and his influence is extremely widespread. But here he makes the case for violence.

Pacifism is not one thing, just as racism or sexuality or English is not just one thing. It generally means one thing to the person using the term, but so much of life and ideology is multifaceted that it’s silly to pretend that it’s not.

And so, when I talk about pacifism, I’m only speaking for myself. For there’s no one else I can speak for. I’m not a leader of some movement or even a member of any organization (not really a joiner, I guess), and so my views are only mine. Which can be said about anyone saying anything.

Also, it should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Just because I’m a pacifist does not mean I expect everyone to be a pacifist. In the same manner, I don’t expect other pacifists to be pacifists in the same way that I am a pacifist.

Anyrate.

I actually disagree with Gandhi. I don’t think there’s ever a case where violence is useful.

Which also means I happen to be against punching Nazis. Or, to put that a different way: I have no interest in inflicting violence (systemic or personal) on any other human. Regardless of the reprehensible nature of a person, I still reject violence done against them.

That being said, it’s not my place to judge someone else (and here I agree with Gandhi) for their choice to use violence in the face of extreme violence. So while I can say that violence is always incorrect action, I’m not going to say that someone in an abusive relationship or living under imperialism is doing something wrong by fighting back violently.

It’s why I have no trouble supporting Palestinians, for example.

But I have no intention of committing an act of violence, or even being associated with violent acts.

That doesn’t make me better or worse than you.

Just makes us different.

I often call this radical pacifism, and it’s something at the heart of who I am. I believe all violent action is incorrect, and I’ll talk about why.

When I say this, I often get extremely aggressive responses to it, which is sort of baffling to me. My pacifism becomes something that they want to disprove or reject utterly. It’s almost as if I’ve insulted them by rejecting violence!

And so the conversation, almost without deviation, goes into the realm of hypotheticals, where my interrogator tries to get me to admit that there is some instance where I would accept violence as the correct or necessary form of action. As if admitting one case is admission of all cases or some sign of personal hypocrisy.

What if someone breaks into your home with a gun and tries to kill you?

I imagine they’ll kill me whether I like it or not.

What if they threaten to kill your family?

Probably a lot of us will die.

So you would just let them die? Are you that much of a coward?

And it continues in this manner.

The point they’re trying to make is silly, especially when you throw out such random circumstances that seem to only have one course of action. And, weirdly, most people come to this same circumstance, of a stranger breaking into my house and threatening me or my family or both with a gun. Like, let’s say that I could fight this person. I don’t own a gun or even a weapon. If they have the will and desire to kill me and my family, they’ll probably kill me either way. So to me, the circumstance only ends with one result. My interrogator is only trying to force me to choose a path I disagree with.

To what purpose, I can’t even begin to imagine.

I find it profoundly strange when someone tries to insist that you must feel and think and behave as they do. But that plays into this. Because to try to force someone to be as you are is a form of violence. Small and inconsequential as the practice or method may be, it’s still inherently violent to force yourself upon another person.

Just as it would be a form of violence to demand that you also behave non-violently.

A minor infraction, certainly, but the principle is the same, I think.

It’s a cliche that violence only leads to more violence. Not only is it a cliche, it’s an ancient one.

But I think it’s also self-evident. Even the circumstance I outline above: if the only answer to violence is more violence, then what have we done? People expect me to want to kill my would be killer, and this, in some way, is a justification to them or to the world.

But to me, either way, we have dead humans killed by other humans.

While I certainly value my life more than yours (how could I not?), I don’t see my survival as being a prosocial moment if it means I had to kill you, or anyone else. Either way, violence was done here and a life was destroyed. Likely many more lives than just those present.

And so I reject the violence done against Richard Spencer, worthless Nazi that he is.

That being said, I’m not sad or even upset that someone punched him in the face live on television. Nazism is inherently a violent ideology. There’s no denying this. There’s not even a qualification possible for this. It’s an ideology that promotes genocide, and is therefore absolutely unacceptable.

This is also why it doesn’t bother me that someone punched him, or that anti-fascist movements often use violence. Every Nazi desires violence. Not just violence against one person, but against entire ethnic groups. The plural there is important. It’s not just Jewish people or people of African descent. It’s everyone who is not on their checklist of what constitutes white. This even includes people most would consider white, like Polish, Scandinavians, Russians, French, and on and on. It goes as deep and ridiculous as to be about specific kinds of white, defined by such backwards pseudoscience that I don’t even care to give a summary of it.

And so when fascists come to your home, I won’t and don’t blame those who react violently to that.

Nick Mamatas said something interesting about this:

One of the unfortunate aspects of school bullying is that school culture trains the victims of bullies to loudly perform their vulnerabilities in order to summon the authorities to deal with the bully.

This tactic doesn’t work at all when the bully IS the authority. See Trump, and the increasingly desperate political delusions around faithless electors, impeachment, a voided election result due to treason, etc. There is no higher power to appeal to, period.

When the authority is a bully, you simply have to outbully him. Thus appeals to civility, handwringing about what has been lost to our political culture, expressions of fear, daydreams about an Obama coup, and the like, are all rhetorical and tactical misfires.

It’s time to find your inner bully.

It’s an interesting thought. And, to go along with that:

Non-violence as a tactic for resistance is only effective if the other side considers you human. If they see you as subhuman or whatever else, they will have no problems with hurting and/or killing you.

Non-violence is predicated on the belief that everyone is human.If you and your antagonist can’t even agree on your own humanity, then it’s unlikely anything useful will come of it.

But let’s go back to punching Nazis.

Every time someone encounters the Other, there’s always the argument made that we should squash them out because they represent a threat to our lives and our way of life.

Just listen to Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins or any of their fans talk about Islam.

They’ll tell you that Islam is an inherently violent ideology that poses a threat to every non-Muslim on the planet. While this may sound absurd, it’s a pretty widely held belief in both conservatives and liberals in the western empires.

The same is said about Mexicans in the US or North Africans or Turkish in Europe. Or even Eastern European immigrants living in Western Europe. Or, weirdly, indigenous people in any country colonized by Europeans.

And so the definition of ‘dangerous ideology’ becomes a matter of preference and perspective. It may be Nazis today who deserve punches, but yesterday it was Muslims (even among many liberals–just ask them about Yemen), and tomorrow it may be activists (nothing new, there) or anarchists (again, always) or pick an ideology.

The general argument for violence is that it’s necessary because of extraordinary circumstances. And while I agree that Nazism is absolutely an extraordinary case, this logic gets thrown around way too often for me to be comfortable with it as a rubric.

I mean, I’m not going to try to argue that you shouldn’t beat up fascists and Nazis. I have no interest in defending such people, since they have no interest in doing anything beyond inflicting violence upon the world and its people. And not just your average run of the mill beatings, but actual genocide.

If there are people who are unfit for humanity, it’s the ones who utterly reject the humanity of others.

The danger with violence is that it doesn’t end. It spreads like a disease.

When you choose violence, you reinforce violent systems.

I don’t think it’s inconsequential that the US, who takes such pride in beating Nazi Germany, has essentially been at war with ‘dangerous’ ideologies and people since Hitler died. Like, ceaselessly. We have yet to find a war or people whose blood we don’t crave.

Further, we’ve gone on to create the kind of surveillance state Hitler, Stalin, and Mao would be endlessly jealous of. We’ve created a criminal justice system that is the envy of every dictator or totalitarian state. We routinely put inmates in solitary confinement, which has been identified as torture for a long time. And we do that as a casual disciplinary decision to thousands or maybe even as much as hundreds of thousands of inmates across the US. Our police routinely murder civilians. Our Intelligence Agencies routinely spy on citizens and assassinate foreigners (and sometimes citizens) and overthrow democratically elected governments and install vicious dictators.

The list goes on an on, and I don’t think it’s inconsequential that a nation who has fallen so deeply in love with violence is one whose ‘progressive’ citizens and politicians still have very little to say about ending war or even just pulling our troops out of warzones. They also have little to say about the surveillance state we live under.

We developed an atomic bomb because we needed a weapon to fight the Nazis, but then we dropped it on the Japanese (who were not super different, ideologically, from Nazis). And since then, we’ve been in a constant state of warfare with dozens of countries on nearly every continent humans inhabit.

Of course, this isn’t a result of fighting Nazi Germany, but I don’t think they’re as separate as some might like to believe.

Violence poisons us. It reduces us. It makes us less human. It makes us more violent. More willing to give into violence. More willing to reduce our enemies to the Other.

Violence is a choice that we make as a society. And, like personal choices, it becomes easier to make that choice every time we make it. So when we went to war with Germany and Japan, it seemed to make sense. When we went to war with Korea, it still felt that way. With Vietnam, we eventually rejected our own behavior. But then came the 70s and 80s when most of our military violence came in a way that is especially recognizable now. Most of it passed through the CIA and we used locals to wage our wars for us, whether it was fascists in Chile or Jihadists in Afghanistan, we stopped sending massive mobilized forces. The 90s were a mix of boots on the ground and covert assassinations and bombings, until we perfected the new state of world war.

After September 11th, 2001, we decided, once more, that there was no such thing as a bad war, and we declared an endless war. Sixteen years later, and we’ve only expanding our warfare in the Middle East, stretching it to seven different countries and thousands of new enemy ideologies who we all call the same thing: terrorists.

Most people I know are in favor of violence, whether explicitly or implicitly, whether vocally or not. I’ve seen the things you say online. I’ve heard you say it with your own mouth. I heard you say it every time you described a politician as ‘hawkish’ instead of ‘war criminal.’ You support violence, and that’s your choice, and that’s okay, I suppose.

I mean, obviously I disagree with you, but that’s okay, too.

But your support of violence is your own choice. And while I must be complicit in most of these choices, whether I like it or not, because we belong to the same nation, whether we like it or not, I can’t stop you, but I can try to resist the rising tide of violence that is all round us.

And so go ahead and punch a Nazi or ten. Beat up some fascists. Make it a party! An anthem!

But think of tomorrow and what our violence costs us, because there is a cost, and it’s not inconsequential.

For now (and always), I hope for peace.