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30 Nov, 2021 14:20

Waukesha laid bare the vulgar tribalism of US politics

Waukesha laid bare the vulgar tribalism of US politics

The Christmas parade massacre in little Waukesha, Wisconsin offered us all a chance to test how we respond to tragedy in the moment. Our humanity depends on the results.

A long, cold week passed in Wisconsin since a career criminal deliberately drove his SUV at fatal speeds down the length of the Waukesha Christmas parade.

The names of the dead are now public record. Hospital spokespeople continue to update the media on the slow recovery of more than 60 injured men, women, and children. Money from around the world pours into funds supporting the victims and their families.

With every passing day, the best elements of humanity step forward to hold the line in the face of the alleged villain, Darrell Brooks – a lifelong drag on civilized society and a predator who, it appears, is willing tear apart his neighbors’ world and murder those that never meant him a moment’s harm.

Anyone out there rushing to employ the insane parade nightmare for the advancement of his or her political agenda chooses to do so in support of the alleged murderer’s open disregard for civilized conduct. Such all-consuming enslavement to partisan thinking won’t exhaust even a single calorie of energy in the service of compassion or toward alleviating anyone’s suffering.

Before we fully knew what happened, and certainly before anyone except the killer himself knew precisely why the attack occurred, there was a mad scramble by the obsessed and soulless to plug the tragedy into their left/right game plan. The bodies were still warm and bleeding at the intersection of Broadway and Main before the first tweets and blog posts hit the internet. Those with their thumbs flying all too fast to recruit six shiny new deaths to their side of the aisle’s ammunition pile shed any semblance of humanity long ago. They swooped down like vultures off some desert power line to pick at the corpses of women and children.

It’s not too difficult to categorize the mindless, sordid salvos from those lost to endless polarization. I hope you don’t find your response catalogued here, but:

In the moment you learned of the attack, if your first response was…

...to ignore the victims and skip right to analysis of the motive, there’s a cold blind spot in your worldview. There are parents grieving for their toddler. There are young eyewitnesses who must learn to live with having seen friends and relatives torn to pieces. There are families who will forever associate the holidays with the murder of their grandmothers. If there wasn’t an immediate sting of compassion for those people, do you also avoid such reactions for anyone else murdered alone or en masse? Consider that there are beasts who manage more empathy for their dead.

If your first response was…

…to claim the vehicular assault must be revenge for the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict – some tactical strike by Black Lives Matter and the first salvo of a coming race war, you must be desperately rooting for such a conflict. A life-long lawbreaker whose existence had less strategy and intent than a rattlesnake’s lonely and filthy existence, Brooks has thus far shown more evidence of acting out of chaotic rage than any grand, vengeful sense of mission.

Perhaps we’ll learn more about Brooks’ alleged motive as the weeks unfold. If he was indeed triggered by the Rittenhouse result, Brooks should face federal hate crime prosecution. Anyone who supports Brooks will face a cultural backlash in due time – and they’ll have limitless soul searching inbound. If the assault was just the action of an evil, broken, and self-absorbed deviant, it’s enough of a daily worry that our society seems set on creating more of that type in any gender, age or race. It’s an equal opportunity nightmare.

If your first response was…

…to coin some cynical social media hashtag in support of potential Rittenhouse verdict vengeance (#selfdefense), you’ve let social media do its job and rot away your intellect and conscience.

If your first response was…

…to dismiss the deaths of innocents at a Christmas parade because somewhere other innocents died with less publicity, than issue the call to honor more of the innocent. Don’t dismiss those lost to a bitter sociopath in Waukesha as though it’s somehow justice for deaths occurring without adequate media attention. Anytime we shrug off violent slaughter as though it’s merely another bottom-fold flare up, we take a tiny shuffle step toward the sort of sociopathy Brooks indulged.

Joseph Stalin famously stated, “You kill one, it’s a tragedy. You kill a million, it’s a statistic.” If you want to side with that sort of thinking, there’s a void down the middle of you.

If your first response was…

…to blast the mainstream media for not immediately assigning a racial identity to a mad driver speeding down a busy street, you fail to realize the only tribal battle in effect in Waukesha rages between the league of sane, functioning human beings and those who gave up their membership cards. 

If your first response was…

…to state the shattering of children enjoying a holiday parade is some biblical justice, you were born maybe 2,000+ years too late.

As a small city in the Midwest buries its dead and begins a slow recovery, anyone described above needs to answer a simple question: What is the point of your loud prideful politics if all they do is sour your view of the world and foul your conduct within it? If your immediate response to tragedies like this is political first and human a very distant second, are those views serving you – or are you serving them?

Perhaps citing a pop culture reference at a time like this would strike some as glib. Still, I allow it because I’ve said all I can muster after covering the Waukesha news exclusively for a week. I recall a song from The Police and their 1981 album, ‘Ghost in the Machine’. Written by Stewart Copeland and Sting, ‘Rehumanize Yourself’ describes the phenomena of human beings caught up in depersonalizing political groups and unforgiving occupations. Its lyrics call for the listener to search his or her character and decide if there’s a need to rediscover some concept of a soul and restore some glimmer of humanity.

Do we need to plumb our own human responses before the next Waukesha occurs? Can we let more light into our daily lives not shadowed by polarized policy? While no mere song can fix much of the world, art exists to ask that kind of question.

Without some glint of enlightenment, the entire purpose of personal politics becomes nothing more than tactical destruction of the alternative point of view. Every speech, vote, and tweet are created to assault the opposition with the final goal of winning, winning, winning.

There’s probably a cancerous chunk of the killer that believes he won behind the wheel of that SUV. You can choose whether to join him in that celebration.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.