I’m so stereotypical that I’m a little bit ashamed. My pronouns are he/him. I’m a straight, white, Christian, middle-classed male. I’m sure you know the type. There are literally millions of us across the United States. In fact, if you look at the ranks of our government, it appears we kind of run the place. The country is kind of set up for people like me.
I’m not bragging. I’m merely pointing out that it’s surprising that one in my demographic would claim oppression. I’m a bit shocked that so many who look like me, enjoy the benefits and opportunities of this appearance and background, and see so many similar people in power are now claiming a victimized status. It’s surprising we have the gall to claim victimization because we are the very people running this shit show.
I really thought the Capitol assault would expose the hypocrisy here. I thought it pulled back the curtain on the dangerous self-interest and lies of a movement that sells fear–specifically, selling a fear that people like me are being displaced. I thought many would see the events of January 6, 2021, in the way that I saw them (because, you know, I’m so typical): the last temper tantrum and gasp of a movement founded in selfishness and fear. I’m convinced that all that selfishness and fear was on full display at the Capitol insurrection. I’m surprised, though, by the population of people willing to double-down on their victim status in the wake of the insurrection.
The doubling down sprouts in statements like this: “Why are you outraged by this but not by the violence of Black Lives Matter protests? Can’t you see the hypocrisy?”
Let’s be clear. I do feel some outrage in relation to Black Lives Matter protests: I’m outraged they have to happen. I’m outraged that they are met with authoritative hostility (as opposed the authoritative acquiescence and acceptance of the Capitol assault). I’m outraged that so many will condemn the BLM movement while extending grace to insurrectionists.
The Capitol assault did not need to happen. It was a gasp of emotion. It was a temper-tantrum of white, male-dominated America. It was the toddler fit of the kid who is forced to stay at the table and eat all his peas. “Mom and dad, I’ve been putting up with your instructions for five long years! ‘Eat your peas! Pick up after yourself! Wipe the toilet seat!’ I want to do what I want to do! This has gone on too long! When will your madness end?! Gimme cookies and then get the hell out of my way!”
What was the goal of January 6? I know that many in the insurrectionist crowd say they’re “trying to take the country back.” (That’s a troubling statement.) Or that they’re moving to “save the nation.” But, come on, save the nation from who? Us? Ourselves? Am I supposed to hold my head high because a bunch of guys who grew up like I grew up and look like I look threw on some army surplus gear and threatened a government of men–who also look like me?
Look, white guys, we need a Pogo moment. I think this it. We need to stand and survey the polluted swamp we’ve created and to recognize that we have met the enemy–and he is us. It’s not someone else. We’ve sowed the toxicity. We’ve created the polluted environment here.
January 6 was the clearest display of the privilege my ilk deny we actually have. It was the kid crying in the check out line because Mom refused him a Snickers–while the kid a few steps back can’t afford to have any meat in his cart. (I’m done with temper-tantrum analogies… I think.) The insurrectionists are so accustomed to getting their way, that when reality (in the form of an election) does not go their way, they claim that something foul is afoot (“It’s rigged!”). It was the culmination of an enabling culture that says “we just need to give them some space to cry it out.” But that doesn’t give the angry toddler the attention they seek. So we arm up, throw things and break shit, like a kid who… OK, I’ll stop there. You’ve got the point.
Here’s where I’m landing this screed: As the parent of a white, middle-classed, (maybe) Christian, (maybe) straight male, I wish for my son to see that rights and equality for all do not translate to diminished rights and equality for him. He has nothing to fear in others’ success. In this culture, he’s set up to win. The noblest thing he can do is enable others to win, too. And sometimes that means passing the proverbial mic. It means not rushing in to add his voice or to force his perspective when others need that space. It might involve eating a proverbial pea, too. He’s already got plenty of attention; it’s OK for others to share in it.
I’m not sure hate is the opposite of love. I think selfishness is. Selfishness leads to hate. I hope my boy can understand that. The truth is that this land, nation and system do not belong to me alone. Nor do they belong to him alone.