Wow! It’s been awhile! But at least I’m committed to my goal of —*checks last post*—posting at least once a quarter!
What could have spurred me to write a post after so long? This video. [Fair warning, it was promoted by IJR, a conservative site that’s a favorite of Trump.]:
Posted by IJR Red Presents on Friday, March 16, 2018
At a time meant to commemorate seventeen people killed at school, and a moment meant to be about holding adults responsible for inaction that caused the death of children, this young woman goes on a rant about how mass shooters are caused by bullying, specifically, the kids that are protesting right then. What this is, is the unsoftened side of those who support Walk Up, Not Out.
First of all, there’s a lot of blame to go around for what happened at Parkland, I’m just surprised so little of it seems go to the murderer. What eventually sent him over the edge (though it sounds like he was very close to it for a decent length of time) was that his ex-girlfriend started dating someone else. According to a Miami Herald interview, “She and the girl’s mother told the kids they had to end the relationship because it was unhealthy for everyone.”
That’s not bullying folks, that’s realizing that your boyfriend shows violent tendencies towards others, engages in self-harming behavior, and is racist and homophobic. No amount of loving and kindness fixes that stuff, not unless that person wants to change. People are allowed to end relationships, especially if they think that their significant others are dangerous. Being nice to this guy obviously was not the answer. Someone was nice to him, and he scared the shit out of her. I’ve written before about the idea that certain women need to “take one for the team” and use sex to pacify violent men, and it is a gross idea that has no basis in reality.
It seems like Walk Up, Not Out has really gained traction in a similar way that All Lives Matter did: once people refused to sit down and shut up about the threat of being killed as they simply try to live their lives, there suddenly needed to be a milquetoast alternative. You take concepts that are widely accepted (in theory) like all human beings are valuable or that people should be nicer, and setup that that warmer, fuzzier, more comforting idea as diametrically opposed to the protesters. It’s an attempt to change the discussion from questions like “Why can an 18 yr. old buy an automatic weapon? In fact, why can any civilian own an automatic weapon?” “Why are there so many mass shootings in the US?” “Why does the Chicago PD have black sites?” “Why are unpaid traffic violations an offense worthy of jail in Ferguson?” “Why are police officers shooting black, law-abidding gun owners for carrying the guns they’re licensed to have?” And turning the questions into something simpler like “Why can’t those mean black people say that all lives matter?” “What do those Walk Out kids have against being nicer to other kids?” These simpler questions indicate that the problem lies not in broken systems that allow for violence to occur, but with the victims, that everything is just fine how it is; if only those victims were better people, we wouldn’t be in this mess. The alternative to people protesting for their lives apparently is the concept that there is no suffering too great to push aside and silence to ensure those in power remain comfortable with the status quo.
Let’s be real here. How many “troubled,” “lonely,” “bullied” shooters would there be if the shooters were black kids? How is it possible that while girls can be mercilessly bullied, they almost never shoot up schools? Why is it that we dance around and around the concept that these killers are guilty of murder and that price of staying alive shouldn’t be perfection? Bullying isn’t a capital offense and neither is dumping your boyfriend. The desire to destroy lives after having you feelings hurt is not a normal reaction. Why do Walk Up, Not Out folks think it is? If it is a mental illness thing (that’s a WHOLE other debate), why are untrained children responsible for the cure?
I’m not saying there aren’t horrible people who span the rainbow of skin colors, genders, age, ability, and more. There’s nothing bad about white men and boys (the demographic we generally consider the “default” or “normal,” and who are generally more likely to be represented in positions of power) that you can’t find in any other demographic, it’s just that societally we are more likely to give them a pass. A black boy walking home is suspicious; a white boy who tries to kill his fellow classmates is lovesick.
But it isn’t that Walk Out or Black Lives Matter are saying people are awful and that’s all there is to it. It isn’t just screaming about how horrible all the police are or how everyone who owns a gun is as bad as the men who murder children. I would argue that is a purposely unfair assessment because what these protests are about is change. Forcing otherwise non-actors to realize there is a need for change and that inaction is a type of complicity. It’s the kind of thing that can make you feel bad about yourself, make you uncomfortable with how you’ve been living your life.
Guess what? Protest is disruptive and uncomfortable. It’s supposed to be. A protest that doesn’t make people uncomfortable isn’t doing its job. If you can see people gathering and holding signs and chanting together and making passionate speeches, and your take away is, “Whelp, nothing to see here I guess! Better go back to normal!” That’s a failed protest.
To say people shouldn’t protest systematic issues means that you’re saying that the problems can be solved piecemeal by individuals, and that’s where things get dicey. Because if individuals haven’t been doing the right thing to not get killed by classmates, strangers, or those who are supposed to protect them, that means that they’re doing something wrong. Whatever they are doing wrong (like ever holding a cellphone, not lavishing a scary dude with attention, holding the door so their classmates can escape) is punishable by death. It means that death is an appropriate price to pay, almost anywhere at any time, for not keeping those in power (or at least those willing to kill) happy through unflinching and neigh impossible compliance to arbitrary and contradictory rules. That’s fucked up.
We should be able to protest freely, especially for something so basic as being able to live your life without the threat of being killed by “a nice, quiet, lovesick, young man who generally kept to himself.”