Content note: Political violence, physical violence, and why I feel using the latter to combat the former will get us all killed. Or at least, all of us whose bodies are politicized.
The leftist forums I follow have been getting increasingly militant lately. By which I mean, they're cheering on Nazi-punching, usually at the expense of any kind of recognition or understanding of what's going on at Standing Rock. Indigenous Americans have built a commune based around organized resistance, non-violent protest, and political activism, and instead of helping out leftists are talking about how great it feels to punch dangerous jerks in the face.
The argument goes like this: Nonviolence is morally superior, but violence is more effective. Or, as articulated in this essay I just read: Nonviolence only means anything when you have the ability to commit violent acts.
I'm scared to see people talking like this. And the reason I'm scared is because of being socialized queer and female for the last five years. Men are afraid that women will laugh at them, the saying goes, while women are afraid men will kill them. It's reductivist and only takes into account gender presentation, but it gets at a truth every visible minority knows:
Escalating a situation to physical violence will kill you.
Using violence against our oppressors is, if not morally superior to nonviolence, at least morally justified. That's why white people are so scared of "angry black men;" on some level they know they deserve it. That they'd want to beat the crap out of people who did to them what they, as a people, have done to others.
But while the right deserves to have their wealth forcefully "redistributed," we're not in a position to do that. Look at us; not "us" as a plural system but "us" as progressives and leftists here in the states. A lot of us are queer folk, people of colour, millennials, and visible women. We've got PTSD, depression, anxiety, and physical ailments, and we can't afford to have them treated. The Army won't let us enlist (the way the linked essay suggests), the only way we could pass a background check is if we're undiagnosed, and if you really want us to buy AR-15s it's a choice between that and food.
Maybe you aren't in that position. Maybe you're healthy and able, both willing and itching to fight. Good for you. Now take a look in the mirror: Chances are, you're a white cisdude.
Has it occurred to you that maybe the reason you want to punch Nazis is because Harrison Ford made it look cool?
Or maybe you're mostly remembering that guy who played Captain America in the Avengers movies. Sorry, I can't pop culture.
The point is
Look, I get it. Testosterone's a hell of a drug. When I had mine suppressed to below even the normal female level, I felt lethargic and unmotivated. Turns out yin needs a bit of yang in it, in order to function.
This isn't a joke about "testosterone poisoning," and it's not meant to shame you for being a guy. This is a reminder that toxic masculinity is in the air that you breathe, making it seem both okay and effective to solve problems FPS-style. And it's a reminder that the real heroes right now aren't the ones who drive into the Water Protectors' camp, and start making it all about them.
The real heroes are the ones who are aggressively nonviolent:
The word "nonviolent" was emphasized repeatedly by almost everyone we met. But there were also clear outlets for people who needed to vent their testosterone. Case in point: the Spirit Riders.
The riders are a small group of 38 young Native men and women who can ride horses like a Red Dead Redemption glitch compilation video. They act as a rapid reaction force for the people on foot during actions.
"We make sure everyone is safe," one rider explained, "We can move around faster, and [we are] more intimidating. A lot more intimidating. I know how to [make the horse] kick, to scare [police and DAPL guards]."
He assured me that they never got close enough to actually kick anyone. "They shoot at us first -- 50, 60 yards. That's when it starts getting tense."
Another rider I spoke with admitted to some direct industrial sabotage -- "cutting cords" to equipment set up by DAPL and then riding off before anyone could catch them. This isn't a side of Standing Rock you'll hear about often from supporters, but it was there. And it's part of why they won. Every minute of delay was thousands of dollars out of DAPL's pocket.
And as Cracked.com also points out, they need an entire city of supporters behind them, distributing donated clothing and food supplies and tending to the wounded. Hell, they need lawyers willing to represent them in court, because they're getting fucking arrested for defending their own lands.
Nonviolent resistance, in this day and age and society, doesn't mean talking big when you're the one in least danger. It means going up against tanks and armed soldiers and cops, and being prepared for them to maim you or ruin your life. Because you're an indigenous person fighting an empire founded on genocide, and they have yet to give half a fuck about killing you and taking your stuff. Whether they're pointing a water cannon at you, or completely ignoring your struggle while they scream about "bashing the fash."
You know who the "fash's" first victims were? These people, that's who.
If you want to make them their last victims as well, don't just talk to them. Listen to them. Spend your next hour on Stand With Standing Rock, and learn about what's going on and what they're up against. Learn what help they want and need from you.
And finally, believe in them. In them, and the women and queer folk and people of colour who are on the front lines of this fight, just by virtue of our bodies making us targets. We're the ones with the most to lose, and the ones who are already fighting. Believe it's a fight we can win.
If you're an abled white man, we don't need you to punch Nazis for us. The Nazis can and will take out their anger on more vulnerable targets. What we need is for you to pick one of the battles we're waging, and use your power and privilege to shield us. Either give what we need to keep fighting, or find out where the line of fire is and get in the way. In MMO terms, we're cycling DoTs on the raid boss, but we need you to heal, buff, and tank for us.
(MMORPGs are a much better lens to view a group struggle through than solo shooter / adventure games, because anyone who's worked with seventeen other people to clear Dynamis knows what happens when someone refuses to listen, or makes the run all about them.)
Nazis talk tough and collect firearms, but they're fucking cowards. All bullies are. Just look at how scared they are of trans, female, and/or PoC bodies, let alone yours! If you make it clear you oppose them, you don't need to throw punches to get them to back down. Most of the time, all you need to do is tell them to fuck off. Just make sure we're okay, afterwards, and that you listen when we say what we need.