Your Symbol

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So the police roll up to a house, and the woman meets them out at the curb with two black eyes and a face puffed up from having been punched a couple times.

The guy comes to the door in a, er wife beater (don’t look at me, I don’t invent these terms) without a scratch on him except for scraped knuckles with smears of blood up and down his fingers.

Asked what happened, the guy responds “Sheprovoked the whoooole thing!”

How do you think that’s gonna play with the cops, the prosecutors, and a jury?

Not well, most likely. Whatever the “provocation” may have been, it’d be pretty absurd to presume it warranted beating someone purple. It’s kind of a no-brainer.

This past week, I’ve heard some people I otherwise have reason to believe are serviceably intelligent – who, in reference to the Covington flap, say “the MAGA cap is, itself, a provocation!” that warrants all manner of mayhem against people who wear them.

I’m not big into wearing paraphernalia for political campaigns, even those I completely support. But this claim is one of the most toxic things I’ve heard lately.

First of all – the MAGA cap is “racist” almost entirely because, for the past two years, Trump’s opponents have been *saying* it was. It has little or nothing to do with the actual behavior of actual individuals who supported or voted for Trump. It’s called “othering”, and it’s one of the most noxious tactics in modern politics.

Photo via Babylon Bee – simultaneously the most brilliant satire site out there anymore, and oddly enough perhaps the best news outlet there is in the Trump era.

Second – the idea that there’s some license to try to destroy peoples’ lives (or worse), not just because of the (utterly legal) beliefs they have, not even because of the (utterly legal) symbols they may wear, but because of the meaning that (people have told) you the symbols have?

Could there be a more toxic idea?

In this society, the remedy for (for sake of argument) “bad speech” has always been “more better speech”, at least among those who deserve to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, a fair chunk of our society [1] believes “our ends justify our means”.

I mean, don’t get me wrong – if the notion of the intellectual “Purge Night” takes off, the thought of taking a can of Pam to the next smug little fop wearing a “Che Guevara” t-shirt would work for me…

…but for the fact that *no free society can survive* that sort of thing, any more than the marriage in that first example is going to survive.

But just like the “She provoked me!” at the top of the post, “wearing your symbol justifies any evil I want to commit against you” is the refuge of the entitled narcissist and the abuser.

[1] And in the interest of diplomacy, I’ll say “both sides do it”, although my heart’s really not in it. Mike Pence’s kids aren’t throwing smoke bombs and punching 17 year old girls at their opposition’s rallies, but Tim Kane’s kid sure as hell did. Still, the point is “your (interpretation of) someone’s symbol doesn’t justify a response faaaaar out of proportion to the symbol itself”. Ever.