As states begin to reopen, some of the nastiest ‘reopen America’ protesters have backed off. I’m willing to bet, though, that few of these protesters have backed down from their opinions.
In these early weeks of reopening, we are seeing evidence of a quieter, more entrenched protest: brazen rejection of the CDC recommendations for keeping a safe distance; refusing to wear a safety mask in order to make a political statement.
Bald-faced, small space congregating has become a badge of honor in some circles.
It’s been fascinating to watch these protesters rally across the nation. It’s been interesting to listen to the convoluted reasoning justifying their civil disobedience. “Fascinating. Interesting,” I say politely. Or maybe better – worrisome and wearisome.
I’ve written about the childish petulance of immature, unpatriotic protesters. I’ve blogged about the moneyed special interest groups that are agitating behind the scenes and I’ve pondered the power brokers who are in control of this chess board, quite willing to sacrifice their pawns for their own economic advantage. (A recent research project estimates that roughly half of the ‘reopen America’ Twitter accounts are actually bots doing much of this rabble rousing.)
Today I’m musing about the mental gymnastics that has characterized this backlash movement. No one ever accused these folks of being logical.
ALL LIVES MATTER
We heard this pushback against the Black Lives Matter movement when quite a few white folks took offense at what they characterize as a kind of reverse racism. Never mind that the movement always was about “Black lives matter too. Black lives ought to matter as much as white lives matter.”
So push back protesters tweaked and twisted the original movement’s mantra into the catchy phrase: “all lives matter.” It sounds pretty good. It has a ring of “truthiness” about it. (Stephen Colbert’s phrase)
The problem is: the All Lives Matter people never believed it.
The reopen protesters have been pushing to get back to normal NOW – no matter the risks. The numbers of deaths are stark: 100,000 + and rising. So, no, evidently all lives do not matter to these protesters. Particularly (as it turns out) the lives of the most vulnerable: old people, sick people and people of color.
Also, from looking at some of the images of protesters spewing anger and sputum into the faces of police officers, it seems pretty clear that Blue Lives don’t Matter either.
MY BODY, MY CHOICE
I think this pro-choice argument is especially egregious. How many of these patriarchal protesters insist they should be able to carry a gun wherever they want, get a haircut whenever they want and go anywhere without any sort of limitation? All the while, out of the other side of their mouths, they insist that government should control every woman’s private medical choices? (And yes, it’s not only men who stand against women’s choices. That’s a whole ‘nother blog.)
Limiting women’s choices keeps them in their “proper place” while limiting free men’s choices in any way is seen as overreach and tyranny.
THE RULE OF LAW
Whenever people debate immigration policy, we can always count on the argument for rule of law.
- Desperate migrants at our southern border are “illegals.”
- “They should get in line and wait their turn.”
- “It’s the parents’ own fault that their children were taken away from them; they should have obeyed the law.”
However, it seems the law doesn’t actually apply to these “rule of law” advocates.
They have convinced themselves that their particular cause is just and any restrictions are unjust; breaking the law then becomes a righteous response. It’s a perfect storm of illogical logic.
Further this “rule of law” angle has a special resonance with white evangelicals in the U.S.
For a while there, we were constantly scolded by an over used, cherry picked Bible verse. Sometimes it came during the immigration debates; sometimes during protests because of the killings of black Americans by white cops.
Evangelicals have been quick to preach to the rest of us:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves….
Funny thing: I haven’t heard any evangelicals quoting this biblical rule while they are busy going to church in rebellion against their state’s limited gathering rules.
No one ever accused these folks of being logical.
I don’t have space to talk about the weird claims that wearing a mask is a sign of fear while being armed to the teeth is somehow supposed to show courage. Or that salons should reopen because my roots need coloring is somehow patriotic.
And one more … read this article from The Atlantic: “The Most Unmanly President.” Tom Nichols ponders the irony that “working-class white men—the most reliable component of Donald Trump’s base—support someone who is, by their own standards, the least masculine man ever to hold the modern presidency.”
Logic does not have much to do with the belief systems that operate in some people.
This is a puzzling dilemma for those of us who value logic and reason and try to challenge our own beliefs; those of us who are willing to change our minds whenever we find ourselves being illogical.
These protesters are not logical because they are not operating out of their heads. Sadly, even the heart and compassion have taken a back seat. No, these are gut reactions. The convoluted arguments we have seen during the reopen protests are not intellectual arguments; they are just one more example of deep-seated survival instincts that are driving these protesters to lash out against change.
Change that they fear is threatening the power and privilege to which they are accustomed.
And – yes – their privilege IS being challenged.
White males in particular have been dominant in U.S. society since our very beginnings, but now women and people of color are insisting on achieving a fairer share of the power within this culture. The fear in these dissident white Americans is palpable.
I believe it is this underlying fear that erupts in anger and violence. It is this core fear that drives their illogical logic. It is fear that masks itself in a macho, bravado, bullying persona.
Those of us who value civility must stand firm in our commitment to civilization. We who care about reasonable solutions must keep speaking out until our voices drown out the petulant voices of these unreasonable protesters.
I believe there are more of us logical, reasonable, patriotic Americans who, even across our differences, truly believe in “liberty and justice for ALL” – not just for some.
So let’s keep moving forward. Let’s keep creating a New Normal together.
From The Guardian: “We’re not essential, we’re expendable.”
From the article: “African Americans in Texas are dying of Covid-19 at a rate more than one-third higher than their share of the population. Yet across the country, the protesters who became the faces of the race to reopen have been mostly white.”
The Bible verse mentioned above comes from Romans chapter 13.
Image of armed protesters in Michigan. Photo by SkyNews.
Image of “choice” protesters in Virginia. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque