The chaos in Charlottesville feels like the culmination of every Twitter and Facebook fight that has taken place over the last two years, if not every social media argument ever. It’s as if the two sides have finally left their keyboards and tried to go out to make their fantasy real at the expense of the other. This may very well be the climax at which point we mark forever as the moment America went completely sideways. The jokes were never just jokes. The retweets were never just that, and the drama that I just typed that with is probably not dramatic enough. What were they? They were the early tremors from a beast that was thrashing beneath the surface.
For a long time, the Confederate monument debate seemed like a passing phase. Like people were making a big deal out of them as an outlet for their election rage, but again, it was so much more than that: an attempt to tear down what people in my home town, state, region often view as part of their history. I never felt that connection to them. They always seemed to be relics of a bad past. I thought everyone shared that contextualization of them until fairly recently. The more you think about their existence, standing proudly and permanently, adourning the city halls and capitol buildings of every state in the union, it does start to eat away at you and something inside you says, “I’m not proud of this.”
And now we see what these statues represented all along: a commitment to a heritage that was tarred over a century ago, and rightly so. They stand as a symbol of America’s original hypocrisy: equality for all that look like me. But should they be torn down so violently? Is that any way to move into the future, by destroying the past? This question may be answered for us.
So now a woman and two police officers are dead, plus dozens injured, and the warring parties don’t seem to have learned anything. Already they are planning more and more battles all over the country. Anything goes now. The Daily Stormer declared “this is war” and was promptly hacked by Anonymous, lost their domain registration with Google, moved it to GoDaddy and lost that as well. The beast is lurching. A Confederate monument was just ripped down in Durham, a “white lives matter” rally is being planned at Texas A&M, and Richard Spencer has vowed to make Charlottesville the “center of the universe”. This is not even close to over.
Back to my original question: what happened in Charlottesville? It became gave us license to punch people that disagree with us online. Someone justified running a car into a crowd of people. Not only has media been socialized in this era, but war, and we are all being called to arms: “No conversation can solve this.” If you don’t punch Nazis, you’re complicit in their oppression of the vulnerable. If you don’t worship a frog and call out snowflakes, you’re a cuck. Lest we all be doomed to the failed experiments of history, we must see our way to understanding our enemies, and ultimately ourselves, before we let the cause of the moment drag us down.