How To Be Opposed

People aren’t getting along too well right now. People are angry with each other, divided by race, class, sex, politics, religion and ideology. You name it. We are on opposite sides.

We disagree on the proper ways to express our opposition but largely agreed on one thing: the other side shouldn’t express opposition at all. After all, WE are right and the other side should just STFU.

Oh, we sometimes SAY that the problem is HOW the other side shows its objections. One shouldn’t disrespect our symbols, after all. Or inconvenience people. Or brandish high powered weapons in public. And be very careful about the words you use, like “assault rifle” (there’s no such thing) or “socialism” (when they are actually talking about “Democratic Socialism.”)

We can get very sensitive about words. And sometimes, very insensitive about actual violence and threats of violence. In our anger, we excuse or even encourage violence. Other times, we expand the meaning of the word “violence” to include anything we oppose.

It’s all very confusing. What the hell can we and should we do?

I have a very modest proposal.

First of all, let’s not worry about agreeing. We can continue to oppose each other on specific things. It’s okay for someone’s views (invariably the other guy’s) to be wrong. I mean, who doesn’t make mistakes?

We should continue to express our opposition. And we can and should be disruptive and even rude. Symbols make perfect targets—inanimate objects and songs cannot feel pain. And inconveniences are a normal part of life. Yell at and heckle the speaker. March across that bridge, traffic be damned.

And if you are caught in traffic, well that’s happened before and it’ll happen again even without protests. Grow up.

Next, let’s refrain from violence and threats of violence. Even if you believe that a revolution is necessary, who has a better supply of deadly weapons? Your side or the establishment? Also—not incidentally—violence is wrong. To use violence is to reject both reason and morality. Put down that gun. Pick up a sign, use your voice. After all, you have something to SAY.

Remember that most people have good intentions. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to stop people from doing bad things. You should and you must. But if you forget that the other guy thinks his actions ARE good and justified, you end up vilifying and dehumanizing him. You personalize it. This is a terrible—and easy to make—mistake.

When we oppose each other, we should be both fierce and humane. Can we try this?