Well, let me back up a bit. We were drinking (enough said). I was on my second jumbo margarita and he was on his first (having already consumed approx. two cans of beers). We were having a lively conversation and the topic was changed (by him, I might add) to the madness of urban riots. Apparently, he had been listening to some morning talk show (The Bob & Tom Show or something equally inane) and he had heard a story about rioters behaving badly. I can't remember the exact details, but he had segued from that situation to the Rodney King riots and he was pontificating on how the LA people who had rioted were portrayed as animals and how idiotic it was of them to have destroyed their own neighborhoods. It was his position that they should have proceeded in a non-violent fashion a la MLK and/or Ghandi.
Now, normally, I would have agreed with him on this. I, too, believe in nonviolence and I deplore warfare and all other forms of violence. I was a vegetarian for over a decade and I've never even held a gun in my life--much less shot one. I've only been in one physical altercation (other than those I've had with my younger brothers when we were kids) and that was because the girl had struck me in the face first and I had to beat her in response (it happened in a public high school and I felt it was incumbent upon me to demonstrate that I wasn't going to allow such nonsense to go down - or else I would have been a walking target; also, I was a stupid, impulsive teenager).
However, I completely disagreed with his assertion of nonviolence, in this instance, for several reasons, as follows:
- He was taking this situation out of context. It wasn't as though these people had decided to riot willy-nilly one day w/ no provocation. We were talking about American citizens who had been systematically disenfranchised for generations--centuries, really. They were at their wits' end. Theirs was an emotional reaction to a graphic, racially motivated beating by police officers who had unjustly harmed a member of their community (on video no less) for what, they vowed, would be the last time.
If you aren't familiar with the history that precipitated this event, watch this film (you can find it on Netflix instant play) - Crips and Bloods: Made in America (particularly, the second clip listed)
- He had arrived at his conclusion w/ little to no forethought. He told me himself that he had only begun thinking about this topic, as a result of some silly radio show. I, on the other hand, had thought about and studied this issue extensively over the past fifteen years. I've read numerous academic texts and had countless thoughtful discussions regarding racism, classicism, police brutality, and the history of segregation in America. I had arrived at a very nuanced viewpoint and I was trying to get him to THINK about his position rather than casually adopting a rather shallow and overly simplistic argument.
- I deeply resented his being judgmental of these people when he had no concept whatsoever of what their situation was like nor what it was like to be abused and disenfranchised. In fact, he had been telling me earlier that night about how he should have rightfully gone to prison on multiple occasions, but that he had gotten out of the sentence b/c he is "too pretty for jail." What I heard was: "I escaped jail time b/c I am a white male with upper-class parents and a good attorney." His judgment was particularly offensive considering that he is a self-professed Christian and it was his God who was supposed to be the one doing the judging - not him.
- Finally, I felt he was being HIGHLY hypocritical in his non-violence stance, given that he had only moments before been bragging about how he had been charged with disorderly conduct in the past for getting into an ugly dispute with his neighbor (over the neighbor having hit his escaped dog with a stick - not too big of a deal compared to centuries of oppression, but I digress). In addition, that evening he had told me a story about how he had been followed home in his car one night and how, in retaliation, he had gotten a shovel to hit the driver of the vehicle who had followed him home. So I concluded that he believed it was a-okay for him to be violent. Just not those savages.
Shortly thereafter, he stood up, threw some money on the table for his unpaid drink and walked out saying, "This has gotten really weird, Jen. I'm leaving." I haven't heard from him since. I've actually tried contacting him five or six times since the argument happened (four times the night of and twice yesterday) to try to soberly explain my position and to apologize for the ad hominem attacks (low blows on my part), but he won't answer my calls.
To be honest, I'm not sure that I really feel that I am the one in the wrong here, but I know him and I have known him for a very long time; I know that he has a good heart and that if he really considered this, he would come around. Also, it seems exceedingly bizarre to end our friendship in this manner. At the very least, I'd like to discuss this one last time to clarify, but I don't know if that is even realistic. Maybe we are far too different to try to continue our friendship. It seems this remains to be seen.