• Jocelyn Briddell

Who is on the Right Side of America

I am an American. But lately, I have been feeling very un-American in the midst of this presidential campaign as both sides vigorously fight for its place in the “American” landscape. One side is hoisting the American flag and boasting “God” is on their side while the other is fighting for patriotism and integrity. As it has been said already, the moral character of our country is on the line.


This is not the first time that our country has been “at odds” seeking to create a new or repair its democracy. The Revolutionary War was founded on the premise that these new Americans no longer wanted to pay the taxes King George III who wanted to impose on them. There was the development of militia men who were fighting the British before the war actually began. They organized, protested, and rioted for their rights. Who can forget the Boston Tea Party and other acts of “patriotism” that manifested itself into war with England? And codes were used to get around the English patrols like the shining brilliance of Paul Revere’s lantern in the church steeple that would alert the patriots “one if by land, two if by sea,” as to how the British were coming. We all know the English lost and we became the United States of America. Our country was founded on the premise that “all men are equal.” As I write these words I am feeling that we as a country are so terribly fractured and not seeing one another as equal human beings.


Our nation saw protests over the Vietnam war in the 60’s and early 70s amidst racial tension and gender outcry. We had Martin, Malcolm and the Black Panther Party challenging what had been comfortable to white Americans in the 50s. Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Ruben were also ruffling feathers with their countercultural movement of “you can’t jail the revolution” in response to the Chicago 7 trial. I know that I will never forget the photo that captured a Kent State University student crying out and kneeling over a fatally wounded compatriot murdered by the National Guard, which had an indelible impact on my understanding of the right to protest.


And here we are again, today, experiencing an America that is dealing with civil unrest due to the voices fighting to be heard from the first amendment. This amendment is first because our forefathers wanted to ensure that Congress would always protect freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right for people to peaceably come together in protest. The forefathers wanted to make sure that what they fought for was protected for the future of our new and emerging country. But we are hearing voices and seeing actions of “patriotism” believing they are protecting the true rights of Americans. Silencing voice seems to be the way to go these days whether it is through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or from marching in the streets to then be attacked by the national guard. To some, Black Lives Matter protesters have been turned into a group of “radical left thugs”, however, “Militia men” have radically organized but they’re not referred to as thugs. People are protesting the right not to wear a mask during a pandemic because they feel it violates their constitutional rights. Everyone is jockeying to express “their rights to raise their voice” and to be heard.


But one voice that is in a position to be heard is the president of the United States. This is a voice that should be clear in its delivery to protect this nation. At the last presidential debate, 45 was asked to denounce white supremacy. After uttering some unintelligible gibberish, he was pressed by Mike Wallace, the evening’s moderator, to answer the question to which he remarked, “Proud Boys: stand back, stand by.” For me, these were the most startling words from a sitting president in modern history because instead of condemning white supremacy, he instead, called them to arms in code. And if he meant not to imply this, it was too late. As they say “the horse was out of the gate.” No way to get it back into it’s corral now.


His voice had been heard for not only did he call upon the Proud Boys, but he called every neo-Nazi/white supremacy group in this country to be prepared given they see that it’s time to defend their country from immigration, keeping brown and black people marginalized such as in the Jim Crow days, and subjecting women so we cannot have rights over our own bodies. And we’ve seen these militia type groups growing whether it has been in Charleston, Pittsburgh, or El Paso, as well as most recently the Wolverine Watchmen who were going to initiate a plot to kidnap the governors of Michigan and Virginia, place them on trial, and execute them. Like the founder of the Proud Boys, Gavin McInnes said: "I love being white and I think it's something to be very proud of. I don't want our culture diluted. We need to close the borders now and let everyone assimilate to a Western, white, English-speaking way of life.” These individuals are afraid of losing everything that comes with being white (whatever that is to them).


This sentiment in itself is an attack on the very democracy that our forefathers held when creating this nation. While they were not thinking of different races, ethnic groups, cultures, sexual orientations, and the impact of social media and technology in today’s world there is one thing that was inextricably clear: that we were to be “one nation, under God with liberty and justice for all.” But this concept continues to remain elusive in a country where some people believe that this is just meant for them.


Therefore for those of us who believe in democracy should be alarmed right now. We have a “leader” who has been anything but a president for “all Americans.” He has been divisive, cruel, racist, xenophobic, homophobic and a hater of women -- nothing that exclaims presidential. His divisiveness in particular is most alarming because he has crossed a line when you signal groups like Proud Boys to “stand back, stand by.” CBS Morning News recently reported how certain militia groups already feel that our nation is in a civil war because of all of the “rioting and looting” that is happening in major cities across America. The Boogaloo’s, an anti-government extremist group, gave a rare interview and specifically discussed that they are prepared to fight given 45 has said that the riots have to stop if the government is unable to stop them. They see themselves as being the people who will stop the political unrest. Kathleen Belew recently wrote a NYT editorial where she stated, “We are talking about a resurgence of the movement responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, the largest deliberate mass killing on American soil between Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 attacks. The fact that most people don’t remember the Oklahoma bombing as the work of a movement reveals how deeply entrenched the white power movement is as an American problem.” This is why I believe we are on the verge of major civil unrest and 45 is well aware of this. He will not denounce white supremacy being the “fine people that they are” and instead will give them a nod when he’s ready for them to move forward in their agenda to purify this nation. It is a time that is making me fearful but no less patriotic.


45 has used his divisive method of leadership to try and catapult himself into a second presidency, and to me, he is un-American. He has made a mockery of the democratic process our forefathers created. This is evident by how he has eroded the legitimacy of our election process by calling it “fake.” He mocks the first amendment and describes it as being “fake” when the media disagrees with him. If he doesn't like the outcome of this election he has already “put on notice” groups like The Watchmen, The Boogaloo’s and The Proud Boys to wreak havoc on our nation in order to diminish our right to peacefully protest. He calls people names including our military men and women he has defined as “losers” because they were captured or lost their lives defending our country. His administration separated immigrant children from their families and put them in cages where they are today because their families were not tracked when they were deported. He doesn’t read intelligence briefings in order to swiftly address anything that can harm our nation. This is indicative as he has left millions of Americans in harm’s way with Covid-19 because he thought it would “go away.” He can’t even show the Bible right-side up to make a point. He has failed the American people as a leader because he refuses to disavow these home-grown terrorist groups. Ultimately, he serves as a president for a select few instead of an entire nation. That doesn’t sound like someone concerned with “liberty and justice for all”.


Patriotic militia were fighting for an ideal in the 1700s and that was to ensure a new and free America. Our forefathers designed a Constitution that ensured liberty for all. It was not based upon hate and violence toward others simply because you do not like the color of their skin, the religion they practice, or speak a different language. This country has become home to millions of diverse people who see themselves as American. To be patriotic is to love your country by caring for and protecting fellow citizens. Therefore, it is counterproductive to see tragedies like another Kent State, the lynching of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, or the 230,000+ people dead from Covid-19 because their fellow citizens didn’t want to wear a mask. To be frank, it's the Christian, or whatever faith you practice, thing to do.


I am an American. I believe in our constitution and what it stands for and that makes me a patriot of American ideals. No good comes from bigoted and racists attitudes as a way to “Keep America Great.” It is not what our forefathers intended. Hate and divisiveness have no place in the American landscape -- the home of the brave, land of the free. It’s not patriotic.


It's downright un-American.


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