Last updated on 2014.12.15
What failures of our institutions of justice justify abandoning civic discourse and resorting to violent action to overthrow the powers that be?
That question consumed the founders of our nation. That question was not on the minds of most of the angry citizens out breaking and burning things last night. I see rage and riot tourism, but I don't see revolution.
I do wonder: do we face injustices so grave in a system with flaws so deep that we cannot rectify them by normal means? Is there any outrage in South Dakota or the United States of America that warrants an armed, organized revolt? How about...
- ...police turned into paramilitary squadrons?
- ...the feds and the Brits collaborating to spy on us through our computers?
- ...our Attorney General refusing to question, let alone bring charges against, a state employee who committed documented infractions of state law to cheat our state out of millions of dollars?
- ...the failure of the electoral process to prevent the consolidation of power in Pierre in the hands of one corrupt, pro-corporate party? (Sub-question: do we storm the Legislature or South Dakota Democratic Party headquarters?)
- ...the government seizure of private land and transfer of property rights to foreign corporations?
- ...state government handing millions to fat corporations while ignoring the economic plight of tens of thousands of Lakota citizens?
- ...state government handing millions to fat corporations while refusing to spend a fraction of that to prevent dozens of South Dakotans from dying?
Those issues don't have me calling on my neighbors to burn down the cop shop or steal some toilet paper. It's easy for us to effetely pontificate when it's not our kids the police are shooting, but then I've argued quite coldly on other issues that parents whose children have been killed aren't the best advocates for social action.
There is injustice in Ferguson, in Washington D.C., in Pierre, and in Pine Ridge. I don't think any injustice listed here or making today's headlines demands a violent uprising. I invite counterexamples from my fellow citizens of a nation founded in violent revolution.
If you can show me a valid counterexample, I will ask you more than the classic Grapes of Wrath question, "Who do we shoot?" (If you enlist English teachers in your revolution, that's "Whom do we shoot?") As we take up arms against our oppressors, I will ask you, "Once we've shot 'em, what will we replace 'em with? What better system will we create, and how will we ensure our system won't fall into the corruption we are uprooting now?"
If we're just smashing cars and shooting at cops, that's not revolution. That's revenge. That's anarchy. And that's not going to increase justice for anyone.