bookmark_borderMorgan Wallen and the cancel mob

Country star Morgan Wallen is one of the most recent victims of the politically correct, bullying mob. After his neighbor’s Ring camera captured a video of him using a racial slur outside his home and leaked it to TMZ, his career has essentially been completely destroyed. His record label and agent dropped him, all major radio stations stopped playing his music, Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music removed his songs from their playlists, CMT and the County Music Association removed his appearances from their channels, and the Academy of Country Music disqualified him from eligibility for awards.

While using a racial slur isn’t the greatest thing to do, society’s punishment of Wallen is excessive and unjust, and yet another example of the warped priorities of cancel culture. The actions of Wallen’s neighbor, who violated his privacy by recording a video of him on his own property and leaking the video to TMZ, are more disturbing and worthy of punishment than Wallen’s actions, yet have gone completely unexamined, uncriticized, and unquestioned. More significantly, hundreds of people across the nation have destroyed irreplaceable works of art in the name of the Black Lives Matter movement – actions that are far more reprehensible than merely saying a word – yet have escaped punishment completely.

Making matters worse, the media, instead of so much as mentioning the possibility that Wallen’s punishment may have been too harsh, are almost exclusively focusing on the viewpoint that he is not being punished harshly enough and even that country music in its entirety is racist. For example, the LA Times published an article called, “Nashville has punished Morgan Wallen. But country music’s reckoning with racism awaits.

This article and others like it are problematic for several reasons. First of all, the article is racist, criticizing the “formula of white men in denim — Luke Bryan to Luke Combs to, now, Morgan Wallen — singing about small-town life, a formula that leaves out Black artists, women and even left of center musicians like Tyler Childers.” Although racial and gender diversity are always welcome, there is nothing inherently bad about white men in denim, and it is discriminatory to imply that people who fit this description are somehow worse than people of other genders, races, and clothing choices. This point also ignores the discrimination in favor of women, non-white people, and especially “left of center” people that exists in much of our society, and the fact that the country music industry is one of the few spaces in which conservative and non-political people have been allowed to exist and be themselves. The article also quotes singer Vanessa Carlton, who alleges that “the white men who have been in charge of these radio stations and labels for a long, long time… protect the cancer because they are the cancer.” It shouldn’t even need to be stated that to call a group of people “cancer” because of their race and gender is blatantly sexist and racist.

The article also makes the false contention that Wallen’s punishment has been lenient compared to those of other country artists for various missteps. “Non-male artists, and non-white ones, are rarely offered the grace Wallen has received in his short career,” the article says. Singer-songwriter Kalie Shorr alleges in the article that “careers have been lit on fire for much less.” In addition to the fact that being completely exiled from radio and TV and suspended by one’s record label and agent can hardly be characterized as “grace,” neither Shorr nor the author of the article provides any convincing examples to support their claims. The article mentions LeAnn Rimes, who was allegedly “pushed out of the genre” for cheating on her husband, the Dixie Chicks, who sparked controversy when they insulted President Bush, and Rissi Palmer, who “lost her label for failing to sell the same number of records as white artists who walk in with a massive advantage.” But none of these artists have been punished anywhere near as severely as Wallen has. The music of Rimes and the Dixie Chicks is still played on the radio all the time. As for Palmer, it seems that the article considers it a punishment that she was held to the same standards that a white artist would be. But isn’t this exactly the way things should work in a just and non-discriminatory society? For someone to be held to lower standards because they are black is just as racist as excluding someone because they are black.

Finally, the article makes the disturbing implication that it is somehow wrong for the country music industry and/or its members to be politically neutral. It quotes author Charles Hughes, who says, “The claim that we all just need to come together and get along, or that country artists shouldn’t be political, just isn’t good enough.” Unless my interpretation is completely wrong, Hughes is saying not only that it is bad for people to oppose the ideology of political correctness, but that it is also bad for people to be neutral on this matter; in other words that the only acceptable option is to actively support the ideology. There are numerous legitimate reasons to oppose the political correctness ideology, which I have explained many times in previous blog posts. Any person would be completely within his or her rights – and in my opinion would be acting courageously, correctly, and honorably – to speak out against this ideology, and it is intolerant and deeply wrong to suggest otherwise. But to suggest that people don’t even have a right to stay neutral is beyond intolerant and wrong. Even worse, the article quotes country program director Christal Blue, who claims that “if a programmer quietly pulls Morgan Wallen today but makes no public statement about their station not tolerating the behavior, they remain complicit.” In other words, not even exiling Wallen from the airwaves is sufficient for the politically correct bullies; he also must be verbally condemned at every opportunity.

Today I ordered Wallen’s latest album, as well as his earlier one (they are still available for sale, at least for now). Not only do I like a lot of his songs, but this is one small way of fighting back against the politically correct mob and their toxic ideology of intolerance in the name of tolerance and conformity in the name of diversity.

bookmark_borderTom Brady did not “get a pass” for endorsing Trump

USA Today columnist Nancy Armour recently published a deeply wrong, racist, and offensive column in which she claims that Tom Brady “has gotten an undeserved pass for his past support of Donald Trump” because he is white. Contrary to Armour’s claim, Brady has not gotten a pass because he is white. He has gotten a pass because, well, he did nothing wrong. As difficult as this may be to comprehend for those who subscribe to the intolerant ideology of political correctness, people have the right to endorse any political candidates they want. It is disturbing that expressing support for Trump is presumed to be something morally wrong, for which a person deserves to be punished.

“How mighty white of him,” Armour writes with respect to the fact that Brady once had a MAGA hat in his locker and endorsed Trump in the 2016 election. “Brady’s ability to enter and exit the debate at his choosing, to shield himself from accountability, is the height of white privilege. As this country grapples with the far reaches of systemic racism, look no further than Brady, for whom the expectations, and allowances granted, will always be different.”

The column also quotes author David Leonard, who says that “Whiteness is the benefit of the doubt… He reaps the benefits that we as white Americans reap each and every day in different contexts.”

Silly me. I thought that whiteness was a skin color. Both Leonard’s allegation and Armour’s “how mighty white of him” comment are blatantly racist.

Armour’s column is based on an idea first put forth by Shannon Sharpe on his Fox Sports show. The talk show host alleged that Brady “got a pass” for having praised Trump, while a hypothetical black athlete who praised Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan would have been “canceled.”

I disagree with this claim. In today’s society, white athletes, and white people in general, are overall subjected to harsher criticism than their black counterparts. Additionally, public figures who express support for right-leaning causes or candidates are criticized much more harshly in our society than those who express support for left-wing causes and candidates. As evidence of this, one need look no further than the near-unanimous support across all professional sports for the Black Lives Matter movement. Not once has any athlete, or public figure, been criticized for supporting this movement, despite the fact that its supporters have perpetrated widespread and horrific destruction of cities, businesses, and irreplaceable works of art.

“Brady has been allowed to divorce himself from it while Black athletes are made to own their views in perpetuity,” Armour writes of the QB’s past Trump support. “There is no end in sight to Colin Kaepernick’s blackballing, even though his protests to bring attention to police brutality of Black and brown people have proven to be an alarm we should not have ignored.” This contention ignores the fact that Kaepernick’s behavior – wearing socks depicting police officers as pigs and demanding (successfully) that Nike stop producing a patriotic sneaker with a Betsy Ross flag on it – is reprehensible and his “blackballing” therefore completely justified. And the fact that despite this behavior, Kaepernick is hailed almost unanimously as a hero and a victim of unjust treatment, while Brady is harshly and incessantly criticized, as the existence of Armour’s column demonstrates. 

Armour describes it as a privilege that Brady has not been asked about his views on the January 6th protest and that he is “not asked to speak for white America.” She writes: “Even Brady’s aversion to talking about politics or current events is itself a form of privilege. Like other white athletes, Brady is seen as an individual in a way minority athletes never are.” Leonard echoes these sentiments, saying: “Seeing sports and living sports as an uncontested space is the privilege of whiteness. It’s the privilege of being a man. It’s the privilege of being a heterosexual athlete. That is a luxury that Black athletes and other marginalized and disempowered athletes have never been afforded.”

First of all, there is no such thing as “white America,” and it is racist and think and speak in such terms. Additionally, I disagree with the allegation that minority athletes, female athletes, and gay athletes are never seen as individuals. I also disagree with the claim that it is a privilege and a luxury to be seen as an individual or to have the choice of whether or not to discuss current events. Being able to express one’s views on politics and current events, or alternatively, to opt not to do so, is a right, not a privilege.

Armour closes by criticizing Brady’s “moral cowardice.” She writes that “celebrating what he’s done while turning a blind eye to what he has not is a privilege Brady does not deserve.” Actually, it is Armour who is demonstrating moral cowardice. And having one of the nation’s most well-known and widely-read newspapers as a platform from which to spew her pompous, mean-spirited, racist nonsense is a privilege that she does not deserve.

Thankfully, Fox Radio host Clay Travis had some sensible words to say about this situation. “Do [74.2] million Americans who voted for Donald Trump have to answer for their support?” he asked. “That’s what America is. It’s a democracy. I voted for Donald Trump… Nobody ever has to apologize when they support a Democratic or left-wing politician in the world of sports. Why in the world should Tom Brady have to apologize for supporting the former president of the United States? I think that’s what makes American sports so fantastic. It cuts across our racial, our ethnic, our socioeconomic, our political divisions and brings us all together. And I hope on Sunday we can all sit down, grab a beer, have some nachos, and enjoy one of the greatest games of all time regardless of who the politicians are supported by the players on the field.”

Amen to that.

bookmark_border“When we say something is racist, believe us”

In an opinion piece for the Boston Globe Magazine, Linda Chavers, a lecturer and dean at Harvard, complains about her “first angry white student.” Near the beginning of her teaching career, a student in Chavers’ class was upset about his low class participation grade and told her that he “felt he was a minority in a classroom ‘led by a Black woman.'” In my opinion, this sounds like a pretty good point. Every student has a right to ask teachers why they got the grade that they did and if there’s anything they can do to increase their grade. But Chavers considers this student’s comment to be an example of racism.

Chavers also sees racism in her interactions with co-workers, including those who ask her “What do you do?” She describes this as a “loaded question” and a “sinister covert act.” Describing the co-workers who ask such questions, she writes, “it’s as if my resume has personally insulted them” and “as if I have committed an assault.” Silly me, but I thought that asking a person what they do for work was a friendly way of making conversation. Are people supposed to automatically know that Chavers is a professor by looking at her? “I am the only one truly affronted by these interactions,” Chavers claims. How someone could be affronted by kind, polite, and completely non-race-related interactions is incomprehensible. 

Chavers complains that “the stripping of our power started long before we were in the workplace” and that she has “endured so many battles that what some might call ‘attitude’ is actually just exhaustion.” But she doesn’t give any examples of actions that people have taken to strip her power away, of battles that she has fought, or of elements of her life that are particularly exhausting. 

“Prioritize the Black women in your workplace,” Chavers urges. “Listen to what we say and listen when we say it the first time, not the hundredth. Don’t be defensive. When we say something is racist, believe us.”

There are a couple of problems with this, however. Prioritizing black women might sound like a positive thing, but prioritizing any race or gender over others is discriminatory. Treating everyone equally is the fair thing to do. Similarly, it might sound like a good thing to believe black women when they say something is racist, but this fails to take into account the rights and the point of view of the accused. Accusing someone of doing something racist is a serious allegation. To take such an allegation as automatically true is unjust to the person being accused. If someone does something racist, that is wrong, and the person absolutely deserves to be punished. But falsely accusing someone of being racist is equally wrong. It’s important to determine whether or not an allegation of racism is actually true.

As for telling readers not to be defensive… it’s difficult not to be defensive when one is constantly being criticized and attacked. Chavers dedicated an entire essay to accusing the people around her of being racist, sinister, and engaged in a conspiracy to take away her power and cast doubt on her qualifications, without providing a single piece of evidence. If she were reading this blog post, she would likely accuse me of being racist for demanding evidence as opposed to accepting without question her claim that complaining about a grade, or asking someone what they do for work, is inherently racist. Chavers complains about how upsetting it was when one colleague whispered, “everyone’s tired of what she has to say, and she should just be grateful to be here.” Maybe she should start saying things that actually make sense, instead of making baseless accusations and seeing racism where it doesn’t exist. 

bookmark_borderConfederate supporters are not white supremacists – rebutting a libelous blog post

This happened a while ago, but I just came across an extremely wrong and offensive blog post describing a protest at a Confederate monument in Gainesville, Texas.

The author, Michelle H. Davis at Living Blue in Texas, repeatedly uses the terms “white supremacists” and “racists” to describe people who demonstrated their support for the Confederate monument. She uses these terms as if they are simply non-controversial, factual terms for these demonstrators, but the use of these terms is completely false and therefore defamatory. There is nothing racist or white supremacist about supporting the Confederacy or defending its monuments. It is possible that someone could support the Confederacy for racist reasons, but it is just as possible (and actually more likely) that one would support the Confederacy because the Confederacy rebelled against the federal government. In other words, I (and many other people) support the Confederacy because it stands for the values of liberty, freedom, individual rights, resistance to authority, and thinking for oneself as opposed to mindlessly conforming to social norms and complying with existing power structures. That is what the Confederate flag and Confederate monuments mean to me, so it is completely unwarranted to assume that anyone who supports these things is racist. 

Davis also describes the pro-Confederate group as “counter-protesters” with derisive quotation marks as if to imply that they are not actually counter-protesters. Given that these individuals were demonstrating their opposition to a different group who were advocating for the removal of the monument, they actually were counter-protesters, and there is therefore no need to insultingly put this term in quotes. She also falsely calls the counter-protesters “domestic terrorists” and describes one of the leaders of the counter-protest as a “moron,” which is a completely classless way to describe one’s ideological opponents. Plus, she posts pictures of counter-protesters and asks readers to contact police if they recognize them, which is a form of harassment and bullying. 

Davis claims that the pro-Confederate group “were clearly the aggressor,” which is false because necessarily, the group that is advocating for the removal of a statue is always the aggressor in any conflict. She complains that police “picked a side, and it wasn’t the side of the people who were against racism, against slavery, and wanted a fair and equal society.” Davis seems to presume that the anti-monument protesters were the ones who fit this description and criticizes the police for siding with the pro-monument protesters. But this characterization is false. Both sides in this conflict were equally against slavery. Judging by the fact that in her blog post Davis makes racist statements such as “there is a lot of actual history that white people were never taught,” she and her side are actually more racist than the pro-Confederate demonstrators. And the anti-Confederate demonstrators were actually advocating for the exact opposite of a fair and equal society. Advocating that a powerless, unpopular minority group be further marginalized and their history obliterated is as far from fair and equal as you can get. 

Finally, Davis describes a “hilarious” instance during the protest in which an anti-Confederate demonstrator taunted those who were defending the monument:

“The most hilarious thing is when she’s [sic] yells at the racists, ‘Yay! America!,’ then all the ‘counter protesters’ cheer, then she says something about how America kicked the Confederate’s ass. All of the white supremacists stop cheering and with a solemn face, just stare at her in silence. Crickets. How telling is that?”

In addition to the fact that Davis incorrectly uses the words “racists” and “white supremacists” and inappropriately puts the words “counter protesters” in quotes, I’m not exactly sure what her point is. The counter-protesters reacted negatively when the anti-Confederate demonstrator mentioned that the United States defeated the Confederacy. This reaction was entirely appropriate. The Union’s victory over the Confederacy was an instance of a powerful government trampling on the underdog. It was an instance of a people being denied their right to form an independent country and being forced to remain part of another country against their will. Why would anyone brag about this? Anyone who considers it a good thing that a powerful, oppressive government defeated a justified, courageous rebellion is a bully and an authoritarian. So yes, this incident is telling. Just not in the way Davis thinks it is. 

bookmark_borderThis is what privilege looks like

Boston Globe columnist Jenee Osterheldt demonstrates a complete lack of empathy towards those with different beliefs in her latest column. In it, she describes the joy that she felt during a protest this summer:

What I remember most about the Say Her Name March & Rally: I was happy.

The summer sun seemed to kiss our foreheads with love that Fourth of July. It should have been sweltering, the streets flooded with over a thousand people, masked and marching in the name of Black womxn. Maybe it was. But all I remember is the solidarity.

For almost three miles, I danced in the streets from Nubian Square to Boston Common, celebrating our lives, loving our lives, delighting in the richness of our Black beauty. I wore Breonna Taylor’s face on my face, a mask donned with daisies made by Boston writer and artist, Arielle Gray. I danced for Breonna.

The march stopped at Harriet Tubman House where Black Lives Matter Boston and other organizers honored fellow activist Monica Cannon-Grant. They called for us, Black women specifically, to shake something and let joy move us. The speakers boomed with Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl.”

We formed a circle as women with ebony skin filled the center, hips swaying, arms in the air, smiles wide and filled with magic. As a light-skinned Black woman, I stood on the outside, cheering them on, my fist in the air, holding sacred space for my beautiful sisters who are hurt the most.

Then their hands, rolling like waves, a current of energy pulling me in, called to me to join them — an intimacy as strong as any hug between sisters. We are Black girls and we dance together.

Overjoyed is a state I’ve only been immersed in once in 2020. It was in that moment. And that moment, to me, is my most powerful act of protest.

My first thought upon reading this was: “Well, aren’t you lucky?” I can honestly say that overjoyed is not a state that I have been immersed in at any point in 2020. Nor, really, is any form of happiness. And that is, in large part, because of the supporters of the very movement that Osterheldt so glowingly describes.

First, governments all over the world decided to take away everyone’s fundamental rights because of a novel virus. Then, because a policeman killed a man who happened to be black, people decided to erupt into a brutal, intolerant mob determined to smash to pieces everything in the world that has anything to do with Christopher Columbus, the Confederate States of America, or anything or anyone deemed to fall short of said mob’s arbitrary, racist standards of political correctness. As a person who values fundamental rights and also loves Christopher Columbus, the Confederate States of America, and history in general, the year 2020 has been nothing short of devastating.

How dare Osterheldt gloat about her joy and happiness when the movement that she supports has denied these very things to people like me? It is bad enough that the BLM movement has essentially destroyed everything that I love in the world, but now they are adding insult to injury by waxing poetically about how happy it makes them to do so. The protest Osterheldt writes so effusively about took place less than a month after Boston’s statue of Christopher Columbus was decapitated as part of a different protest by the same movement. Did Osterheldt stop to think for one moment about the hurt that this act of bigotry caused the Italian-American community? Did she stop to think of the pain inflicted on me, a person who is on the autism spectrum, who loves statues and history, and who used to walk by and admire this statue nearly every day? Or, for that matter, did she stop to think of people who cherish their Confederate heritage, and the anguish that they must be feeling as the BLM movement tears down, one by one, the statues and monuments that they hold dear?

Osterheldt argues that the narrative surrounding the BLM protests should not be “looters and shooters” but instead “a love language spoken in the tongue of liberation.” But the reality is that looting, violence, destruction of innocent people’s property, and worst of all, destruction of beautiful statues, have been major parts of BLM protests. No, not every single protestor engaged in these destructive acts, and perhaps a majority did not. But these acts need to be fully acknowledged and unequivocally condemned. To characterize the BLM movement as filled with joy, love, singing, dancing, smiles, and solidarity is an inaccurate and incomplete portrayal. It is an insult to the innocent people who have been harmed by this movement, such as myself, small business owners, the Italian-American community, and the Confederate community. It denies the physical, financial, and emotional devastation that this movement has inflicted.

Again and again, Osterheldt and the people she interviews in her column mention “liberation” and “freedom.” It’s interesting that people seemingly so passionate about liberation would have nothing negative to say about Second Amendment violations, governments’ authoritarian measures to combat the coronavirus, the Durham-Humphrey Amendment, the Affordable Care Act and its individual mandate, or any other things that actually take people’s liberty away. To the BLM movement, “resistance” seemingly constitutes stomping on the underdog, and “liberty” seemingly means the ability to destroy and trample on any culture that is different from your own.

“No matter where one lives, running while Black isn’t easy,” Osterheldt writes, without providing any evidence or logical reasoning for why this would be true. You know what isn’t easy? Not being able to visit the North End anymore because it is too traumatizing to see the empty pedestal where Christopher Columbus used to be. You know what else isn’t easy? Not being able to visit Boston at all without being overwhelmed with sadness at the fact that the city is just not the same now that the statue of my hero is gone.

Believe it or not, it is not only black women who have richness and beauty. All races and genders do. For example, lately I have been reading more about the life of Christopher Columbus, someone who I have always admired as a proud Italian-American but didn’t know a ton about. Learning more about his personality, his successes and failures, and the obstacles he overcame, makes he admire him even more. I’ve also read about a wide variety of Confederate generals, learning about their quirks, their skills, their temperaments, and their philosophies. There is richness and beauty in the lives of all of these brave leaders from history.

But the BLM movement doesn’t care about any of that; in fact, they seem determined to stomp out the memory of these historical heroes. All that they care about is people who look and think like them. Osterheldt does not care one iota about the Italian-American community, about those who value their Confederate heritage, or about people on the autism spectrum like me. We are the people who are truly “hurt the most” (to use Osterheldt’s words), and she is kicking us while we’re down. It is easy to be happy when the things that you love, the things that you value, and the things that make your life worth living are not brutally, mercilessly, and inexorably being destroyed. Osterheldt’s joy during the Breonna Taylor protest is what privilege truly looks like. Instead feeling empathy for those less fortunate than her, she is rubbing salt in our wounds.

bookmark_borderMarkey calls Trump “racist scum”

During last night’s chaos-filled debate, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) called Donald Trump “racist scum.”

This, in my opinion, is more offensive than anything that Trump said during the debate, or ever, for that matter. If Markey believes that one or more of Trump’s comments or policy positions is racist, there’s nothing wrong with tweeting, “that comment is racist” or “that policy position is racist” and (ideally) explaining why. But to call a person “scum” is completely unprofessional and completely inappropriate for someone who holds public office. This type of personal attack is something I would expect an anonymous, illiterate troll to write, not a United States senator. Shame on Senator Markey. Trump is often accused of being a bully, but the real bully here is Markey, as well as anyone who uses this type of insulting, ad hominem discourse against those with whom they disagree. 

bookmark_borderPavel Bure’s refreshing comments on BLM

The recent protests by professional athletes in a variety of sports have been demoralizing to anyone who truly values justice. The decision by athletes and their leagues to cancel games as an expression of support for the Black Lives Matter movement has made me, until this point an avid sports fan, seriously consider boycotting watching sports.

It was refreshing when I happened upon some comments by retired Russian NHL superstar Pavel Bure on the BLM movement. “If we talk about equality, one law should be interpreted equally for everyone, he said, according to a translation by RT. “If something happens to a white person, it’s OK, but if he is black – it’s a big tragedy. All people should be treated equally. I worked in America for more than 20 years playing with guys from different ethnic groups. My best friend was Gino Odjick, an American Indian who introduced me to his ethnic community. But native Indians are the most oppressed nation in North America. Donald Brashear, a black guy, was also my friend and there was no racism. What is happening now is outrageous hysteria, reverse racism. Why should anyone apologize?”

Retired NHL goalie Ilya Bryzgalov also expressed refreshingly reasonable views on this topic. “I don’t see any connection between the NHL games and the Wisconsin shooting, which we know very little about,” he remarked, according to RT. “How can ice hockey and sport be linked to unlawful acts performed by a policeman?… I’m tired of this hype. Talking about the Black Lives Matter movement, I just want to ask, don’t the lives of other nations, like Latin Americans and Asians, matter? It’s highly politicized. Finding a connection between such things is absurd!”

Exactly. The fact that the NHL canceled games as a protest against a police shooting in Wisconsin is absurd. As both gentlemen expressed, everyone should be treated equally, and the BLM movement does the exact opposite of that. It is not appropriate for the NHL or any other sports league to express support for this movement. 

bookmark_borderState Senator and others charged with felonies for destroying Confederate monument

Finally, a small step towards some semblance of justice. On Monday, various people, including a state senator, were charged with felonies for destroying a Confederate monument in Portsmouth, Virginia. On June 10, a mob surrounded the monument, covered it in profane and insulting graffiti, decapitated the four soldier statues standing on the monument’s base, and pulled down one of them. (If you have a strong stomach, photos of the destruction can be seen here.)

According to local news station WAVY News 10, the following people were charged with conspiracy to commit a felony, as well as injury to a monument in excess of $1,000 (also a felony):

  • LaKeesha Atkinson, Portsmouth School Board member
  • Amira Bethea
  • James Boyd, Portsmouth NAACP Representative
  • Louie Gibbs, Portsmouth NAACP Representative
  • LaKesha Hicks, Portsmouth NAACP Representative
  • State Senator Louise Lucas
  • Kimberly Wimbish
  • Dana Worthington

And the following people were charged with injury to a monument in excess of $1,000:

  • Raymond J. Brothers
  • Meredith Cramer, public defender
  • Hanah Renae Rivera
  • Brenda Spry, public defender
  • Alexandra Stephens, public defender
  • Brandon Woodard

The Portsmouth Police Department is asking for help identifying 13 additional people involved in the destruction of the statue, and they are asking for anyone who recorded video during the incident to share it with them.

Lucas’s attorney, Don Scott, accused the police department of “doing what they always do which is they weaponize the criminal justice system against black leadership.” The ACLU of Virginia demanded that the charges be dismissed because the police department directly asked a magistrate to charge the defendants instead of going through the Commonwealth Attorney’s office. (Police Chief Angela Greene said that her department did this because discussions with Commonwealth Attorney Stephanie Morales “did not yield any action.”) Governor Ralph Northam called the charges “deeply troubling.” Former Governor Terry McAuliffe described Lucas as “a trailblazing public servant who isn’t afraid to do and say what she believes is right” and praised her “opposition to a racist monument.”

I could not disagree more strongly with these comments. The felony charges are 100% justified. Destroying a monument to the outgunned, outnumbered, losing side of a war is an act of bullying, bigotry, intolerance, and authoritarianism. Anyone who participates in such a despicable action is a bad person and deserves to be severely punished. A Confederate monument is not racist, nor is the decision to hold people accountable for vandalizing it. For Lucas’s attorney to accuse the police department of racism is deeply wrong – any person who damages a statue deserves to be criminally charged, regardless of his or her race. Does he think that his client should be able to destroy statues with impunity because she is black? As for the decision to bypass the Commonwealth Attorney’s office, the police department should be saluted, not criticized, for its determination to seek justice. Does the ACLU believe that people should be able to destroy statues with impunity because the Commonwealth Attorney refused to do her job?

It is particularly disturbing that people in positions of leadership  – a state senator and members of the school board, NAACP, and public defender’s office – would vandalize a statue. As Jazz Shaw at Hot Air points out: “When your average citizen does something like this it’s bad enough. But when an elected official such as a state senator is caught red-handed, you’re talking about someone who was placed in a position of trust by the public to uphold the law.”

Lucas might be a person who is not afraid to do what she believes is right, as McAuliffe claims, but in this case, what she allegedly did was 100% wrong. There is nothing honorable about openly and unabashedly doing a morally repugnant action. There is nothing brave about being an intolerant bully who tramples on the underdog. And that is exactly what Lucas, and all the other individuals who were charged, allegedly did. Assuming that these defendants were actually part of the mob that destroyed the statue and this is not a case of mistaken identity, every one of these individuals deserves the harshest possible punishment. 

bookmark_borderYes, COVID-19 restrictions really are tyranny

Numerous people, including myself right here on this blog, have characterized government policies designed to combat COVID-19 as tyrannical. Dictionary.com has several definitions of “tyranny,” including “arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority,” “oppressive or unjustly severe government on the part of any ruler,” and “undue severity or harshness.” In my opinion, the stay-at-home orders unilaterally imposed by governors across the country, prohibiting citizens from moving about freely and conducting their daily lives, fit this definition perfectly. But in a recent column, journalist and political consultant Gary Pearce dismisses the arguments against these authoritarian policies and claims instead that systemic racism is the real tyranny.

Pearce derisively writes that “people across North Carolina and the nation protested against what they called the ‘tyranny’ of COVID-19 restrictions that kept them from bars, gyms and hair salons for a few months.” He claims, “COVID restrictions aren’t tyranny. They’re an inconvenience during a public health crisis.” What Americans should truly be concerned about, according to Pearce, is “the tyranny of racism that has terrorized African Americans for centuries and continues today.”

While some of the examples that Pearce lists, such as slavery, Black Codes, and Jim Crow laws, arguably constitute tyranny, these things have long ago been abolished. Other examples that he mentions do (at least occasionally) happen today: lynchings, beatings, and instances of police brutality such as that which took the life of George Floyd, for example. But while I would never deny (nor would anyone in their right mind) that these things are horrible and unquestioningly violate the rights of their victims, they do not constitute tyranny. This is because these actions are not carried out as part of a deliberate government policy but are isolated incidents, almost universally condemned and punished just as any other crime would be. Crimes committed by individual people, as wrong as they are, are not tyranny.

Pearce also alleges that the police response to the Black Lives Matter protests constitutes tyranny. He criticizes police officers’ “menacing presence,” their use of clubs, tear gas, and rubber bullets against protesters, and their armored cars, riot gear, and semiautomatic weapons. “Sometimes the police looked more like military units,” he writes. How can the way that police officers look, the weapons that they carry, the gear that they wear, or the vehicles that they drive, constitute tyranny? As for the use of clubs, tear gas, and rubber bullets against protesters, these would constitute tyranny if used systematically against innocent people, but the protesters against whom these things were used were far from innocent. Over the past few months, people associated with the Black Lives Matter movement have assaulted police officers and civilians, burned, smashed, and otherwise destroyed property, looted businesses, and vandalized countless statues and monuments. Although there have been a few isolated instances of police using excessive force against innocent people, the vast majority of instances of use of force were in response to acts of aggression by protesters. Defending people and property against violent mobs is not tyranny.

Contrary to what Pearce argues, COVID restrictions are the true tyranny here. Since the coronavirus pandemic began, governments around the country and world have trampled on individual rights on a massive scale. People have been told that they cannot run their businesses, shop at stores, eat in restaurants, attend church, gather in groups, go to parks or beaches, or even leave their homes, sometimes under penalty of fines or prison time. How can anyone argue that this is not tyranny? The fact that these policies have been instituted in response to a health crisis does not make them any less tyrannical. A pandemic does not mean that individual rights no longer exist, nor that it is okay to violate them. If it is tyrannical to force blacks and whites to use separate restaurants, stores, and barber shops as Pearce alleges, how can it not be tyrannical to ban all people from restaurants, stores, and barber shops altogether?

So in conclusion, although instances of racism and police brutality are certainly unjust, they are not systemic, nor do they constitute tyranny. Stay-at-home orders, on the other hand, violate everyone’s fundamental rights to make their own choices and therefore are the true tyranny. In the words of John Wilkes Booth (and also the Virginia state motto), sic semper tyrannis!

bookmark_borderBullies protest against Confederate flag towel

I thought it was ridiculous when I heard that dozens of people in Minnesota decided to protest against a Confederate flag at their neighbor’s house. But then I saw a news article titled, “Protest calls out white silence after Confederate flag towel displayed on Evanston beach.” I did not think that such a thing was possible, but this towel protest reaches new levels of ridiculousness.

Reading the full story behind these events only makes this incident more appalling. The offending towel was first sighted on Wednesday at Lighthouse Beach in Evanston, Illinois, where a group of beachgoers had draped it over a fence. LaShandra Smith-Rayfield saw photos of the towel posted on social media and decided to drop what she was doing and drive to the beach to confront the towel owners in person. She posted a video of the confrontation on Facebook Live. In the video (since deleted) she reportedly told the towel owners, “I can’t feel comfortable in my own neighborhood. That flag right there is my swastika.” Then, a small group of protesters arrived at the beach and held Black Lives Matter signs until the towel owners left. Another small protest took place at the beach Thursday, followed by one on Friday which was attended by 300 people, including the mayor.

The Facebook event for that protest was titled, “No one is free until we are all free,” which is ironic because the protest seems to have been dedicated to taking away people’s freedom to go to the beach without being bullied and harassed.

Smith-Rayfield’s actions in instigating a confrontation with a group of beachgoers and then organizing a protest against them are utterly despicable. People have every right to possess and use any type of towel that they want. The group of people who hung the Confederate towel on the fence were doing absolutely nothing wrong whatsoever. Yet Smith-Rayfield chose to drop what she was doing and drive to the beach to verbally attack them. Then she and her supporters held not one, not two, but three protests against these people who were doing nothing wrong. In this time of relentless attacks on the Confederate States of America and its iconography, this is one of the most bigoted, intolerant, and aggressive instances of bullying I have heard of yet.

“Me speaking out against hatred does not make me anti-patriotic,” Smith-Rayfield told the Chicago Sun-Times. “It actually makes me patriotic… Every person on that beach walked past it. In my video, you can see people walk on past it. Why is it okay to walk on past it?”

This is one of the most preposterous questions I have ever heard. Not only is it okay to walk past a group of people minding their own business, it is an obligation. Unless, of course, one wants to compliment the towel or ask where the owners bought it, which would be totally justified because in my opinion, a Confederate flag towel is awesome. But when it comes to making negative or critical comments towards a person or people who are doing nothing wrong, that is morally impermissible because it is an act of aggression. For Smith-Rayfield to imply that bullying and harassing innocent people is not only acceptable but is morally required is preposterous. She is not “speaking out against hatred.” She is aggressing against innocent people.

Disgustingly, the mayor of Evanston, Steve Hagerty, praised Smith-Rayfield’s “courage and persistence.” But what Smith-Rayfield did was an act of cruelty, aggression, and bullying. This has nothing to do with courage or persistence, and it is disturbing that an elected official would praise such a thing.

Terri Turner, who attended one of the protests, said that she and her daughter were up till 2:30 a.m. “trying to process how heinous that was.” She was not referring to Smith-Rayfield’s decision to attack an innocent group of beachgoers; she was referring to the Confederate flag towel itself. This reaction is bizarre and incomprehensible. There is nothing “heinous” about a Confederate flag towel. It is a towel demonstrating pride in Southern heritage. Smith-Rayfield’s actions in instigating an argument with innocent people, as well as Turner’s own decision to attend a protest condemning these same people, are what is truly heinous.

People have a right to go to the beach and display any type of flag or towel they want without being insulted, yelled at, or harassed. If you think that disliking someone’s towel gives you the right to go up to them, berate them, and organize protests against them, you are not only 100% wrong but you are also a mean, nasty, intolerant bully.

One bright light in this dismaying series of events is that while Smith-Rayfield was verbally attacking the group of innocent beachgoers, an African-American veteran decided to intervene. According to a series of tweets describing the encounter, this man told Smith-Rayfield that “she’s the one causing the problem,” that the towel owners were “minding their business,” and that he “fought for their right to display that flag.” He is 100% right. Interviewed later by the Chicago Sun-Times, this brave veteran said that he personally believes the Confederate flag is wrong but also believes that people have the right to disagree and that he served in the military to protect that right. This guy showed true courage, tolerance, and empathy. If only more people behaved this way towards those with whom they disagree.