The Out Versus the In
Imagine, if you will, the final moments of your own life, coming to an abrupt and violent end underneath the chassis of a grey Dodge Charger. Driven, with lethal intent, by a confused and angry white man, who, only hours earlier, might well have been chanting that a “Jew will not replace” him while holding aloft a tiki torch purchased, tackily, at a big box store, somewhere in Virginia.
As your bones begin to creak and crush, what might your final thoughts be? Surely, one must hope, they must orbit around those you hold dearest to your heart, those with whom you have shared laughter and joy, those whose bonds are forever cemented in your mind. All of it – every last ounce – smashed, crudely, into the ashy pavement, at the behest of a dullard, someone whose testosterone exceeded their brain matter, and whose anxieties ran wild with salacious, irrational conspiracies. It is, perhaps, the same thought process that runs through the minds of countless school shooting victims, who, might well have pondered in their last fleeting moments of consciousness, why such a hateful, deplorable act was lavished upon them personally, without any provocation on their part.
This new militancy is the dawn of our shared era; it is the yoke that we shall all now carry together. Those outside of acceptance and normality will naturally, as if driven by an invisible spectre, lash out at the rest of us on the inside. They will slather violence, death, and destruction upon us, upon our children, in the places and during the moments where we are soft, where we are the weakest. The out will kill the in. The in shall fear the out.
It is, perhaps partly, on account of this new reality, that our worlds have become increasingly individualized. Our rides have become Ubers, our spare rooms have become Airbnbs, and our food, delivered, by meal-prep services, or grocery delivery apps, and on and on, until the only thing we actually, desperately, need, is our screens, upon which we may display and perceive the world in the light it is most comfortable for us to see it in.
James Fields, no doubt, crafted his own screens in such a way, as to display the left-wing protester, that he would allegedly go on to murder, as an existential threat prior to him throttling her to death with his vehicle. She, in some twisted way, represented an obstacle to overcome, a villain to destroy, a helpless, defenseless target, worthy only of destruction. How did we get here? How did James Fields get there, too?
The cynic, at this juncture, might claim I have never waxed so sentimentally over a single life claimed by the car-bombs of the militant Islamist. One might, with a squinted, suspicious eye, accuse me of only becoming emotionally involved with the victims of terrorism when it suits my left-wing sensibilities.
What if all violence like this comes from the same source? Left, right, center, whatever? What if the jihadist in Yemen and the Alt-Right goon in Virginia are driven by the same intangible, nonsensical, dread and hate? Why – in an era thousands of years removed from the enlightenment – are so many of us falling victim to ideologies that delineate the truth on the basis of one’s religious preferences, or countries of origin? How on earth did the app-powered generation fall head-over-heels for the crusty myths of antiquity? How did we get here, and how can we find our way back?
Blaming Trump won’t get us back there. He stoked the flames, yes, and has cowardly refused to denounce white supremacy because he wants more votes, but racism was alive in Alabama before Trump, and it’ll be alive long after he’s gone. Nor is it sufficient to blame one political party in the United States for our current state of affairs; one is certainly worse than the other, but neither group bears the full weight of our collective sins on its shoulders. No, the horrible reality is far more uncomfortable than all of that. What played out in Charlottesville has been stewing within us all for decades, and all of us now stand back, shocked and dumbfounded, as if we all had no idea this vicious hatred wasn’t always percolating under the surface. It always was present, and I fear, gravely, that it always will be present in the future.
As I imagine myself being crushed underneath the Dodge Charger of white anxiety, I think my final thoughts would center around the absurdity of it all; how greedy billionaires backed a demagogue to save a few bucks, and how they sold out basic human decency and empathy in the process. I might, if I was feeling clever, ponder in that adrenaline-drenched moment, how a man with a shitty toupee led a racist revival of brain-dead Southerners that ended, improbably, with my body being smashed under the tires of a spurned 4-Channer’s pretend sports car. Whatever those final thoughts might be, I cannot escape that sinister suspicion that the fate that was always awaiting Heather Heyer will eventually claim more and more of our lives. Bit by bit, piece by piece, rational, sane, and wholesome society might well get chewed up by the skittish, anxious, and angry segments of the world whose rage is indiscriminate, and whose humanity, empathy, and decency have evaporated.