Putting the shoe on the other foot
One of the particularly sad conclusions I’ve come to over the years is that there is no upper bound for hypocrisy. That being said, if we’re trying to break down our own hypocrisies, it can be good to put the shoe on the other foot for a while.
So, let’s take a group I’m particularly perturbed by (and likely a lot of the #UniteTheRight folk are perturbed by) — #ShariaSupportingIslamists. I’ve got exactly zero respect for #Sharia and its precepts, especially around women and homosexuals. I can think of no redeeming qualities they possess, and cannot imagine giving them the benefit of the doubt for their backwards, regressive, and evil beliefs. These people are as wrong as I can possibly imagine.
How would I feel, if the “bad guys” of the #Charlottesville narrative were #ShariaSupportingIslamists? What if there was a mosque that was being converted to a synagogue, and a bunch of muslims, including both ISIS extremists and more moderate supporters, marched through the streets of #Charlottesville with a permit? And what if one of the ISIS marchers careened through a group of counter protesters with a car after the march had been cancelled?
Violence vs. Speech
Would I have the urge to #PunchAIslamist? Perhaps — but that certainly wouldn’t give me the right to act out that violence. As vile as ISIS might be, if you’re a US citizen, you’ve got the right to peaceable assembly.
If an islamist car was driving by, would I hit it with a bat? Again, as much as I might despise ISIS, violence isn’t an appropriate response to someone’s identity.
Would I name and shame people in the ISIS march? I can certainly sympathize with the impulse, but I think context would matter to me — that is to say, I would definitely want them out of any government jobs that have any sort of security component, but I might not care if they worked at #HuffPo or #Starbucks.
Guilt by Association
Would I call everyone who participated in the march, even if they weren’t waving ISIS flags, a supporter of terrorism? Would I discern between the people protesting the mosque to synagogue conversion on the basis of historical significance, and the people who literally cheered for dead Americans?
This is probably the most interesting one — because I do think there were varied groups in #Charlottesville, and I do think I might be a hypocrite on this. I’ve got a significant amount of sympathy for those people who would protest the censorship of Confederate history (tl;dr — it happened, parts of it were bad, and we need to own that forever, instead of hiding it), but if I’m being honest, at this moment I would look askance at “moderate” muslims who were willing to march with ISIS.
Having identified that hypocritical urge, I’ll next endeavor to make sure I do better at resisting it.
Flip the Script
Sadly, not everyone is going to go through the exercise of looking at a situation with the roles reversed, in order to perceive their own hypocrises. I doubt the mainstream media will ponder what they would think if peacefully assembling #BlackNationalists were confronted with violence from #KKK counter-protesters, and a single black nationalist ran their car through a bunch of #KKK guys.
The Real Enemy
And here’s where we hit the meat of the matter — this is not a battle between any two opinions. You can take any political dipole you want, and put them on either side of any of these confrontations, and it shouldn’t change our prescription for justice. This is really a battle for freedom of expression.
#BLM folks march, violence happens, and the right-wing becomes more amenable to first amendment restrictions.
#KKK folks march, violence happens, and the left-wing becomes more amenable to first amendment restrictions.
At the end of the day, both sides are manipulated into losing one of the most, if not the most, important freedom of the United States of America. The government gains that much more power, and as always, that power is inevitably used against the political enemies of whatever the current government is.
I truly value the first amendment, and would fight for the right for ISIS to peaceably assemble despite my loathing of them. I might want them on a government watch list (a separate hypocrisy, to be sure, but the 4th amendment isn’t as visceral to me as the 1st…yet), and if they ever committed any violent act I would meet force with force. But I know that if I don’t fight for the first amendment, it won’t be there when I need it most.