In the internet age it’s hard not to find the many potholes, dead ends, and darkened streets that litter that information highway most of us use consistently. We don’t usually mean to find out way into these places or into these potholes but playing the links can get you into trouble. With so many people on social media it gets worse because you are trusting that your colleagues, associates, friends, or family are not posting things that would lead you down darkened alleys. The internet has taken a turn in the past few years and the need to be seen and lauded has intersected with a pervasive nastiness that is spilling from the message boards and onto the streets. It’s become hard NOT to run into deadzones, to be honest. Flash ahead to a story that hit our local news last week, footage and all, and that was a hole I willing climbed into and regret wholeheartedly.
The story was about a teen girl that had been pulled from her house by several people and dragged down the porch steps and was beaten severely by several people. Possibly five or more, men and women beat this woman about as brutally as I have ever seen. The horror of it wasn’t just that this was a teen girl being beaten by other teens and adults, but that some of these people were so wound up that some would take breaks while others beat her only to come back and return to beating her. It’s hard to say it was savage in a world where people will take clubs and knives and machetes to one another but it was certainly brutal. And the worst part of it all, in an event that was only full of bad parts, was that these people, these people who participated, those that watched, and those that filmed, gave away their humanity like it was as meaningless as the life of this young woman.
If you want to deep dive into this you’ll find reasoning behind the assault, and excuses, and he said, she said, and the standard things that go along with this sort of thing. There’s always a reason. There’s always a rationale. But then you witness the act and you realize that there’s a point where reasons don’t matter, it becomes about the act itself, a sort of blood ritual that the group takes part in, as if it were a religious act. It binds one to the other through the blood of another as a sign of solidarity where there is none. These are people who have no loyalty to anything but themselves and they prove this as the act continues. And why, why the obsession to film it? As a warning. As a brag. As a statement to the world that they are tough and need to be feared. It’s part of a weird cultural shift that showed everyday people gaining fame for even the worst of behavior. Tantrums, bedroom moments, meltdowns, all those things we have seen get rewarded with fame and money. It’s funny too because I wonder if a lot of this can’t be traced to the writer’s strike of a few years ago when we were inundated with a glut of ‘reality television’, the voyeuristic viewing of people’s everyday lives and struggles that have only gotten more dramatic and false as years have gone by. Reality television may not be scripted but it’s staged and these ‘nobodies’ that got chosen to live their lives on television created an appetite for both more and for the sort of quick fame that these people seemed to find. There’s a bitterness in America that the Dream so many were promised either isn’t what we believed or was never offered to them. If you are someone of color the opportunities, you found were those that many times were the castoffs of what others didn’t want. The system isn’t fair, something that you learn at some point in your life, sometimes earlier than others. And if the system isn’t fair then you stop trying to win at it and work to beat it.
Imma get mine.
That becomes the motto of the desperate.
The table is rigged and by god, I won’t trust others to do for and my loved ones and I won’t trust that the system which so many see is broken will be fixed.
So imma get mine.
A sentiment of the street that rises from a sob to a battle cry that others can understand and appreciate, not seeing that many times that course, that path leads you directly into the way of others doing the same thing.
Our self-obsession is nothing new, our desire to take selfies and videos, it just became easier and now that both are so easy it’s made us look even deeper within to fill the emptiness we feel. We wanna be loved, and feared, and respected, and adored, and followed, and we are now under our first president that almost seems like the perfect product of that world. A caricature of America and American fame.
We spend so much time reaching for meaning, reaching for hope that we don’t see ourselves giving up our humanity to get it. We want respect so desperately that we’ll do anything to get it. Respect not being a thing earned but taken and forced and held by the fists and kept through blood. We don’t see one another by our eyes but by our fists. What can you take from me and what can I take from you?
Imma get mine.
I will beg, borrow, steal, cheat, and kill to get what I feel is coming to me.
And that’s part of it to, this strange entitlement that we feel. The feeling that we are owed, if not the dream then the affectations of it – the car, the money, the notoriety, the sex appeal, the women, the men, all of it. Because it isn’t fair that other people have things we want. It isn’t fair that we should have to suffer without. We are a nation of children who feel slighted for not getting things they feel owed. So we lash out. We rage. We hate the Them that isn’t us.
Gays. How dare they force me to accept them.
Trans people. How dare you force me to treat you as you identify yourself.
People of color. How dare you see yourselves as my equal.
Women. How dare you believe you are worth the same as a man.
And on and on.
We live in this strange world where we all believe ourselves the god of the universe and all around us should serve or get of the way. We are so angry at the effort to be a decent human that we rage at the idea of having to give away some of our control.
So you get it from both sides.
Those without power will do anything to get a modicum of it.
Those with power will do anything to keep it.
All at the cost of our collective souls.
We are a nation that spends more on our defense than our schooling. We’d rather destroy that create. It’s as simple as that.
But it isn’t.
The intricacies of the socio-economic web are a horror and beauty to take in, their creation going back for some to the birth of American slavery and stretching across the years to engulf gender equality and the freedom to be who you identify as. We would rather create red-tape that keeps people from freedom and rights than to acknowledge that our view of rights is too narrow.
But then we must zoom back in on this fight, this brutal fight where people were wantonly giving away their futures and freedoms for a vendetta because that is the most important thing in their world. They don’t believe in a future they have never been invited to. How do you care about another person when you have been taught to scarcely care for yourself? How do you try to reason things out and see consequences when you are told that you are worthless, and stupid, and are lazy and greedy if you demand clean water to drink. This is a problem about this place and in this time but it’s a problem about our America. We are watching as funding is being stripped from programs people rely on and watch as people shrug and proclaim that ‘lazy people need to get jobs’ as if it was just that easy. As if there are jobs out there for adults that treat them like adults if they don’t have a degree or training. The whys are a million-fold as to how these moments happen and why they are filmed. The problem is not in identifying them it’s in seeing your way past them because how do you help a person to reclaim their souls?
And there we have it, back to the beginning.
The American soul, a thing we have prided ourselves in for so long because it meant that we were open to others, would help others, and believed in the ingenuity and strength inherent in the nation are gone. We are at the dawn of a new era of isolationism at every aspect, where we want to deny things that have been in existence since the dawn of Man – homosexuality and transsexuality. We would rather fight one another, to have one another’s blood one our hands, than to find a common ground. So as I can look with horror at what these young people did to act as if I am shocked would be to lie to myself because the terrible fact is that we are doing this to one another day in and day out, gleeful to film it and share it. We comfort ourselves in our violence because we punched out a ‘Nazi’, or we pushed down a ‘snowflake’, happy to make up any reason for the violence and to soothe ourselves as we raise our hands in victory. But we are socializing, we are normalizing hatred, plain and simple, and when the American dream is one of getting what you feel you deserve by any means necessary because we can’t see any other way to move forward then you start to see that collectively we’ve all lost our souls and I have no idea how we start the long process of getting them back.
And that’s a pretty hopeless and bleak future to look towards.
No wonder so many of us wanna fight.