Is there an “acceptable level” of violence in our society?

I guess, duh, the answer would be yes.  Look at video games, right?

Let me ask it in a different way.

Is there an “acceptable level” of violence when face-to-face with another human being in non-combat situations, where the parties are not being paid (i.e., cage fighting)?  An “acceptable level” of violence perpetuated by a man on a woman?  An “acceptable level” of violence by those with much power on those with less power?  And wouldn’t it be nice if the answer to at least some of these questions was no?

Since my assault eight days ago (I have to fight the urge to put quotation marks around the word assault after it’s been diminished so roundly over these eight days), these are some things I’ve heard or read.

  • You have to expect violence in situations like this (being a polite dissenter at a presidential election town hall meeting).
  • You showed up with a sign.  What do you expect?
  • That’s nothing; one time I got punched in the nose by a security guard at a Creed concert (this from a female acquaintance).
  • It’s not like they pepper-sprayed you.
  • The protesters outside pissed off Newt’s aides and they took it out on you; it’s the protesters’ fault.
  • A shove?  Really?  You’re going to call that an “assault” and spend MY tax dollars on something so frivolous (this from someone who doesn’t even live in New Hampshire)

Plenty of people were supportive, but it’s hard to not mull over some of the responses above and wonder about them.

So…Let me see if I can get this straight.  A handy little flow-chart of violence.

It’s okay to shove a female protester if she is peacefully holding a sign, even if she is not verbally protesting or causing any other disturbance.  You don’t even have to talk to her.  Shove first, then tell her to get out.

And…It’s okay to pepper spray peaceful protesters as they sit on the sidewalk if they don’t do what you tell them to do.

And…It’s okay to shoot people from close range with rubber bullets if they’re getting boisterous.

It’s okay to shove, spray, taze, and shoot (as long as you’re using (hopefully) “non-lethal” ammo and as long as the target is a protester, and you’re in a position of power).  I’ve turned the tables a hundred times in my mind.  Check this out.  I go to a Newt rally.  I don’t like that one of his aides is wearing an ear piece because I think it’s creepy and powermongering.  I stride up to him, violently rip it off him and stride away.  He gives chase to get his ear piece back and demand answers.  At which point, I turn around and shake him, and shove him with force and then stalk away.  He decides to press charges against me.  Would the police in that case ask him three separate times if he’s sure he wants to press charges, and take eight (and counting) days to decide whether to pursue charges against me?

You know, I am thankful for many things.  That despite it being sore, especially at the end of the day, my back seems like it’s going to heal after it was twisted in the struggle.  That though the incident replays in my mind over and over, I have loved ones I can process it with.  That I didn’t get punched in the face, pepper-sprayed, tazed or shot at that day.  That I’m not in a vulnerable situation of poverty, and that I’m not automatically disadvantaged due to my race, because this shit happens all the time in those worlds and those people don’t have the unearned resources I enjoy just because I’m white and middle class.

But to walk away from this, as it seems some would have me do, legitimizes that there is indeed an “acceptable level” of violence by white men with power and money, perpetuated on women, the powerless, the disenfranchised.  “It was just a shove.”  No, it was scary and demeaning and impossible to understand, and just plain WRONG; and perhaps most importantly, it was the event that opened my eyes and strengthened my resolve to work every day to do my part to assure justice (economic and otherwise) for the rest of us, and to do whatever I can to make sure assholes are called on their unacceptable behavior.  Every time.

…In the meantime, I’m still waiting for the detective to return my calls…

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One Response to Is there an “acceptable level” of violence in our society?

  1. zzodrow says:

    Good stuff. Keep at it.

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