In the past few days, we have seen many unprecedented things, not the least of which was protestors storming buildings at the capitol. The reactions to these events have been almost as unprecedented. One such reaction was the rapid purging of certain conservative figures from major social media platforms. Another was a large portion of the media and political class calling the protestors and their figure heads domestic terrorists.
While the reaction is understandable, is it the right one? The companies that have made these decisions are indeed private entities and are free to do as they please within the law. The media and politicians are trying to gain viewers and votes, and they are free to do that as well. However, I think there is a lack of understanding about why the protests and rioting took place, and understanding is not to be confused with condoning.
When people feel hopeless and desperate, they are willing to do things that they would not normally do. I have always argued that World War I is what started World War II. The Treaty of Versailles essentially laid the entire blame and punishment of the First World War on the German people. Some might argue they deserved it, but what was the result? Desperate, hopeless and resentful, they turned to a charismatic leader and were willing to do whatever it took to be out from under the punishment laid on them by others. This is not to imply that anything that has taken place so far is akin to Nazi Germany, but this behavior and ostracizing is what leads to those kinds of situations.
With that said, think about how the bulk of the protestors felt. It’s difficult, I know, but don’t just think about the fact that they let an overzealous speech rile them up to the point of storming a federal building. Instead, think about how average Americans could get to the point of thinking that’s a good idea. Why would soccer moms, business owners, blue collar workers and an assortment of all other kinds of citizens show up in the middle of the week to start a riot? I know the instinctive response to that question is, “because Trump told them to,” but again, why was that possible? It’s because there is a huge contingent of the American population that feels hopeless, desperate, and even resentful.
So, if we have a group that feels that way and thinks that the most powerful people in the world are against them, do we think it’s wise to literally turn against them? To remove them from social media? To call them domestic terrorists? These people are our neighbors, our friends, and our family. We may not like it, but it’s true, and I hope people remember that. Sometimes we get too focused on winning or score keeping and getting even, and we forget about the humanity in a situation. We forget that everyone has hopes and dreams as well as fear and anxiety. We forget that helping each other gets us farther than fighting each other, and, most importantly, we forget to ask “why?”
I don’t pretend to have the answers. People are complicated creatures, and the majority of the issues we face have been building for a long time. What I do know is that times like these call for rational problem solving and decision making as well as empathy for our fellow man. We can be better – on all sides.