When Is Violence Justified?
By Brenda Ann Eckels, aMGC ©2017

My first view of how the Charlottesville protests could go even more inconceivably wrong then they had already was a tweet from @SenWarren2020. You can see the actual tweet here.

As I watched the crowd pull down the now hated statue of Robert E. Lee, I had several conflicting thoughts.

1) I was somewhat annoyed that a marketing campaigning political arm of a US Senator (who has already turned down the offer to run for president) seemed to have the “scoop” the earliest publication of the video. 

2) As is so common in this new media mess, there is no context to the clip. Who shot the video? Was that person part of the Warren2020 organization? If not, how did the organization aquire the video? 

3) As is also common these days, the sound quality was abysmal – further removing the images of the toppling statue from context. Was the group surrounding the videographer actively encouraging the actions, against the actions, or caught unaware surprised by the actions? 

None of these questions matter to a political campaign that has shown a willingness in the past to twist media to whatever end they wish. The fact that it was published by a politicians campaign that is part of a political party dogged with allegations and evidence of corruption is even worse.

I had a momentary longing for the days when real Journalists, who tried to uphold a standard of ethics, we’re first on the scene, with the most professional equipment they could obtain, who quite frankly had no ball in the game save recording, writing, photographing as much as they could as professionally as they could. 

Yes, raw footage, words, images did get censored, edited, changed before publication, but generally NOT by the Journalists alone. Of course, Editors always sat on the Tightrope of pleasing viewers, readers, advertisers, and the owners but it was still a somewhat orderly, controlled, verified video clip or news story that went out in publication. 

I have since watched other videos of that moment. In some, the role of antifa members seems highlighted, in others there appears to be genuine surprise by the crowd not immediately around the statue. 

Still missing in action, perhaps hiding on some antifa’s smartphone, is the inside story of what those closest to the statue were doing, saying…even who they all were. 

So again, we have an incendiary video clip being pushed relentlessly by various political groups, activists, bored Facebook users, and still days later we do not know even half of the story in what some are citing as a touchstone moment in history.

This matters. 

A great deal, in fact, because at the very base of this event one or more human beings violently and intentionally damaged and tore to the ground something that did not belong to any of them.

Had this been a video clip of my area’s neonazi gang driving in the pickup with the Confederate Flag, swinging a bat to knock off every mailbox decorated with a Star of David or Pride Rainbow, there would have been a swift course of action. 

The police would have followed them back to East Rochester and arrested everyone in the video for vandalism and destruction of property. It would be left to the Prosecuting Attorney to decide wether to add hate crime charges. 

It is almost always wrong to destroy or deface something that does not belong to you. 

It is wrong because this type of violence, however small, eats away at the Constitutional Right to own things AND the accompanying Responsibility to Respect that Right for others to own things – even if you dislike the other person or the thing they own. 

Once we Americans start ignoring the fact that every Right enshrined in our Constitution & Laws carries with it a matching Responsibility we must bear, we begin to devolve from and to lose the very Freedoms, Independence, and Society that made America.. not great… but certainly better than an anarchy filled “me first” apocopyltic minefield.

Do I abhor the false glorification of the Confederacy that threatened our nation years ago? Of course! Do I have a profound dislike of Klansfolk and Nazis in general, with a particularly strong aversion to those within a 10 mile radius of me? YES!

Does that abhorrance and aversion grant me an “outside the law” right to take a Bic lighter to that Confederate Flag in that pickup truck?

NO.

To do so would legally be 2 crimes: vandalism & destruction of property.

But what of Ethics? Morality? You might ask. Surely, it would be ok ethically or morally to torch the faded dirty thing as it hangs off the back of the neonazi gang’s pickup truck. 

After all, I have biracial exstepkids I love, black friends who face daily discrimination, and as a Bisexual Independent Old Catholic, a Spoonie on welfare, and a Green Party member I am hated 8 ways to Sunday by these NeoNazis! Surely under a moral or ethical mandate I would have that right, wouldn’t I?

NO. 

Ethically, I have no right to destroy someone’s property simply because they wish I would die and stop writing and tweeting about them and my awareness of racism and homophobia. 

Morally, I have even less ground to stand on if I were to want to convert that Confederate Flag to ashes. I AM a Jesus Follower, and that 1st Century Jewish Rabbi was pretty insistent that I am supposed to “Love My Enemies”. 

If they were to try and strangle me with said flag? THEN I might have a legal, ethical, and moral reason to destroy it. My Right To Not Be Murdered could outweigh the NeoNazi gang’s right to have a Confederate Flag.  I’d also perhaps be removed of the Responsibility To Respect Others Rights if those others are attempting to murder me. 

Toppling a statue in the heat of angry passion, on the other hand, has no ethical defense because ethical actions are by nature undertaken after rational thought, and hopefully a discussion about the ethical reasons being invoked. There was obviously no sit down in a circle to discuss the ethical points in the video.

Morally, regardless of religion, all American do, in fact, have a basic moral code they are expected to follow if they want to BE Americans. A whopping one sentence.

Do not infringe on the rights of others.

So morally, there is no defense of toppling a hated statue you do not own either. 

Granted, between our government and much of our society, we Americans fail at this one simple moral code so often that it can make one wonder if we will, indeed, ever progress beyond the stereotypical brash selfish teen so accurately portrayed by Scandinavia And The World Comics. 

However, just as we encourage a wayward youth to get up, and try again to do it the right way, America has a long history of giving an honest effort to do better when we screw up. 

When is violence justified? 

When it comes to toppling, defacing Confederate Statues? Never. It is the polar opposite of throwing bricks through the windows of a synagogue, church,  or mosque. Both are equally wrong. 

Violence begets violence. 

Time to do the ethical, moral, legal American thing. Stop marching, stop sharing the video, stop glorifying the violent event as if it was your candidate or your party that came up with the idea. Stop demonizing all the sides involved, including the politicians.

Sit down, think, talk, and work out how to:

  • Keep the history lessons in those Statues and symbols
  • Add the history lessons missing from those Statues and symbols
  • Remove the ability for those Statues and symbols to be a rallying point for hate, division, and violence.

Americans CAN do this, and do it nonviolently. Not just for Confederate Statues, but for all the areas of our Nationwide Community that have symbols, signs, words, and practices that belong to history not to today.