Joe’s blog – #92 – Words are not equal to violence

A Swedish journalist recently noted (a concept held by others), “The idea of universal freedom is vital for human coexistence. The realization of this idea rests on us upholding the difference between idea and action, and that there is no way of bargaining here. Words are not equal to violence, however aggressive and frightening they may feel.”
In light of the recent violence that occurred in Charlottesville we need to take stock of that thought before we seek to deny hate groups access to our public squares; or, otherwise consider enacting laws designed to restrict the fundamental rights guaranteed to all citizens, even those groups we may disagree with, under our Constitution. Groups, such as those hate mongers & racists who descended on Charlottesville, have the right to peaceably assemble & protest in our public squares. They have the right to free speech and the right to think, believe, and express whatever hateful, wrong, beliefs, views, and ideologies they want. By the same token we who do not agree with their point of view have the right to disagree and to peaceably confront them in that same public square.
However, none of us – neither left nor right or any shade in between — has the right to threaten or do bodily harm to the other. We are free to hate each others ideas. We are even free to hate each other if we so choose. We are even free to believe that the other should be removed from existence, but we do not have the right to lift a finger to make that happen. We possess no right to do physical violence to another. If we choose to do so then we commit a criminal act; and, if we do while spewing hateful and, racist, views then we commit a hate crime, and the full force of the law should be brought to bear against the violator. No exceptions. Violence is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.
Under our Constitution citizens have the right to keep & bear arms. That same Constitution leaves room for and, allows for, government regulation of that right (whether the standard that should govern in that instance should be the “reasonable relationship standard” or the “”compelling state interest standard” is for our Courts or Congress to decide). Given the high potential for over heated tempers that exists when groups, such as those that confronted each other in Charlottesville, come together I do not think it unreasonable (though I am sure the ACLU, I am a card carrying member, would disagree), to ban the bearing of arms at such events. My personal view, given what we know about human nature & based on historical experience (distant & recent), whatever legal standard is applied, government can meet its burden and rightfully ban arms at such gatherings.
My view re the removal of Confederate monuments from our public spaces was outlined in an earlier blog. I believe they should be removed (anyone who defaces, damages, or destroys them before they are properly removed should be prosecuted under the law).
There is no whitewashing (pun not intended) what the Confederacy stood for. Our homogenized version of American history really needs to be fact checked and cast aside (Where’s Howard Zinn when you need him?). Because of the direct action of the Confederacy we suffered a horrific civil war in which thousands upon thousands of lives were cut short. The Confederate Generals and all who served that Confederate cause are not by any means American heroes, and should not be memorialized as such. The are not heroes or great men because they stood up for their beliefs and cause. If that is the yardstick by which we measure greatness and heroic action, then it could be said that Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pol Pot and Osama bin Laden were great/heroic men: they surely stood up for their beliefs/causes. We would not tolerate the KKK putting up a memorial in our public squares to honor their founder (though those who want can put up any monuments they want on their private property or in museums they fund out of their own pockets).
Here is how I see it: when hate groups come into the public square we who do not agree with their views should, in our far greater numbers, meet them there at a respectful distance. We should, in mass, stand with our backs turned to them. We should not engage in any debate or argument with them. We should simply keep our backs turned to them, we should sing some songs, enjoy some local live bands, share some good food, teach our kids, play some games, engage in some uplifting and edifying conversation, get to know the strangers who have joined with us, etc.
But meet them in the public square we must. They’ll get our message and, like it or not, they will know that their message is falling on deaf & disagreeing ears; and, just as they slithered into town they will slither out.
Peace, Joe G.
Deerfield CC
3 Sept. 17

This is the posts comments

  1. Francoise Heyden September 4, 2017 at 17:17 #

    I had the great pleasure of visiting Joe yesterday and he asked me to pass along greetings to you. Joe had taken a position on principle not to have visitors to protest their new ridiculous protocol which involves body searches and changing into overalls (a beige zootsuit with a zipper down the back he can’t take on or off by himself because of his leg amputation). He and many other prisoners, also in other institutions, refused to have visitors for months, but the protest has broken down. Of course, the new policy has not stemmed the easy access to drugs so this is just more harassment. As Joe has proven ad nauseum, the system won’t change by itself, nor will prisoners try to change it unless they feel the pain, but Joe has other things on his mind now and I was honored to be his first visitor in months.

    Joe is holding up remarkably well, given all the many tortuous ups and downs of the most recent 17 month period waiting for parole. He is cautiously optimistic that he’ll be out by the end of the year, but on edge, ever vigilant and ready for a surprise phone call with good or bad news. He’s using a walker to get around and goes to the yard, rain or shine, as often as he can to let off steam. This stressful life is taking its toll physically and emotionally, but his determination, wit, and intelligence are undiminished and his eyes are full of kindness, humility and compassion. If anything, he’s even more steeled to doing the right thing out of principle and because it’s morally correct.

    During our three-hour conversation, I was able to ask him a lot of questions I had from reading Todd Peppers remarkable and well-researched life of Marie Deans, “A Courageous Fool”, recently published. Joe is quoted throughout and was able to fill in a lot more detail for me on various aspects. You truly have to wonder about our society’s claim to be about freedom and democracy in the face of this corrupt murderous privatized behemoth that’s totally out of control… As I told Joe, it was shocking enough for me to read it even though I had heard most of it before and I could put the book down whenever I got overwhelmed, while he never got a break during these four decades… Please read it if you haven’t already gotten your copy!

    Holding Joe in the Light, as per Quaker tradition, Francoise.

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