The January 6, 2021 siege on Capitol Hill is still very fresh in my mind. Three days later (it feels like 3 months later), as you might imagine, I and the rest of the world have some thoughts on the matter.
At 7:30am the following morning I wrote this on Twitter and Facebook:
Our Trump supporting brothers and sisters have been brainwashed by a maniac. We must not hate them but instead understand their condition and love them.
I still feel the same way.
As a person who is easily consumed by fiery anger, it's interesting that I don't have much anger towards them at all.
It is critical that we all remember that a human's beliefs are probably the most important drivers of all our drivers.
Even if your side is on the side of truth and facts, you still are relying on believing scientists. How many of us have personally done experiments to conclude that the Earth is round? Even though this is factually true, most of us haven't proven it for ourselves. We just believe it.
So when a leader that you trust with all your heart tells you something, you have little choice but to believe it. (I have quite a few highly intelligent friends who believe vaccines are unsafe. They are anti-vaxers. They believe what they read.)
When Neil deGrasse Tyson told us that Pluto was not a planet, I had little choice but to accept that. He is the renowned astrophysicist and planetary scientist. Not me. But apparently it's a debatable topic.
The day Neil told me that Pluto was no longer a planet was the day Pluto just became a rock in my mind.
We all do it. And believing in God is a perfect example. We either believe in God or we don't. There is absolutely no way currently of proving either side. But most of us are quite certain our belief is the only right belief.
While the people who stormed Capitol Hill should certainly be held accountable for their actions, maybe even as insurrectionists or terrorists, they were just doing what all humans do... Believing the leader they chose to believe.
Without a doubt, the most consequential Akronite to ever live was John Brown. His raid on Harper's Ferry is considered by many to be the dress rehearsal to the Civil War.
He is a top 3 hero of mine. He might even be number 1.
But it is undeniable that he was a terrorist. He murdered people and stormed an armory. Him being hanged was an appropriate consequence to his actions.
Have you ever heard of The Milwaukee Fourteen?
The Milwaukee Fourteen were fourteen peace activists who burned Selective Service records to protest the Vietnam War. On 24 September 1968, they entered Milwaukee's Brumder Building, site of nine Wisconsin draft boards, gathered up about 10,000 files, carried them to an open public space, and set them on fire with homemade napalm.
Rightfully, they were found guilty of theft, arson, and burglary.
Direct action must always be a tool for the activist. And we must always have activists. Without them the government will certainly run amok.
But as direct action activists we have a moral responsibility to weigh out actions with our hoped for outcomes.
I am a deontologist when it comes to hurting or murdering human beings. Deontology is the idea that a certain action is not permissible even if on the balance it creates a positive outcome.
What John Brown did at Harpers Ferry is a good example of this. His actions created, I believe, a positive outcome. He was the beginning of the end to slavery in America. So I believe his actions created a net positive outcome. But for me murdering human beings is off the table. I simply refuse to do it because I believe it is fundamentally wrong.
As activists we must have these moral and ethical conversations with ourselves before we begin even holding a sign on the street. What is acceptable for us personally and what is not acceptable.
The more extreme we move up the ladder of direct action the more clear we must be in our own beliefs of acceptable action and the more obligated we must be to strive to be certain our beliefs are based on fact and truth.
The Siege on Capitol Hill is WAY up the evolutionary ladder. But yet I believe many people truly believed they were just on a Fantasy Island surreal tour of the Capitol. (Others appear to certainly have much more clear agendas.)
The more extreme your actions the more you better REALLY think you are correct and the more you REALLY need to think your actions will have a net positive effect on your cause.
Let's go through some of the phases of direct action and their levels of extremism.
Yelling and holding a sign on the street.
This can actually be really powerful. Just ask the Westboro Baptist Church how effective this can be.
Most of the time you are just hoping to raise awareness to your cause. These guys are really good at it. (Of course I think these people are total nuckleheads. But you would be foolish to not learn from their techniques.)
You should always feel justified in making a really good sign and get yelling. If you feel it you should do it.
Now is when the reality instructors come out. It doesn't take them long. "But what if you stop an emergency vehicle from saving someone's life?"
Obviously, let emergency vehicles through.
This can bring out the press (and the police). And you will now have detractors that will sound rational to average citizens.
I was part of blocking traffic with Black Lives Matter protestors and it felt more than justified. "Police freely murder innocent black people. You can sit in your car for a few minutes."
These kinds of protests were particularly powerful because they were going on all over the world. That said, I'm not sure how much of a difference all of it made. BLM support seems to be waning for everyone except black people.
Then you move into destruction of property in some sort of way. Graffiti. Tearing down statues. Occupying spaces.
From there you start moving into attacking people. Holding hostages. Taking prisoners. Assassinating people.
The more severe the action the more you better be right. Because you will be labeled, often rightfully so, a terrorist.
It's not necessarily absolute that your actions are wrong. It's that you must be absolutely right. We all stand behind the American Revolution after all.
Why are we doing any of this?
If you aren't absolutely clear on why you are doing any direct action, you probably should just stay home.
We must be clear on what we're trying to achieve. The process goes in this order:
Let's take this week's seige on Capitol Hill. It's possible that it may inspire some voter reform. But more likely it will result in a global shut down of voices that are deemed "disinformation." Quite likely governments that love to take rights away from people any chance they get will use this as a way of making more speech illegal. This comes from a poorly thought out plan. The Capitol Hill terrorists have likely hurt all our rights as activists because they weren't being actual activists. They were just looting a Target store that happened to be where all the powerul people were located. What do you think is going to happen except a lockdown on activism?
So often I see activists that either have a very muddy desired action or no desired action at all.
I've been thinking about this for several years in my fight for the basic humanitarian rights of American citizens who live houseless.
I've been continually honing my message. "The goal of the Houseless Movement is to get sanctioned tent villages in every city in America that needs them."
I have one goal. It's not the only solution to ending homelessness certainly. But it is my main call to action because I believe it is a critical need.
That's, by far, the most important part of any direct action. "What do you want John Brown?"
His actions would have easily ended in the trash heap of terrorist actions such as those of the unabomber and the Oklahoma City bomber, if he wasn't so clearly focused on ending slavery.
I feel like I've done a decent job of raising awareness of the homeless American nightmare (although that certainly can't end). And I feel like most people feel that homelessness is wrong on many levels.
I am solidly in the policy changing phase. I am still trying to fight for my legal right to shelter homeless people on my private land. But the city's lawyers do nothing than keep the discussion gummed up in the area of logistics and paperwork. I am quite disheartened by how difficult the legal system is to be heard as a private individual. After years of trying, not one single judge has heard a word about why or why not I should be allowed to shelter homeless people on my private land. All we talk about is paperwork.
I hope you could imagine my frustration.
Fortunately, I am still able to keep my wits about me. I'm still able to think rationally and clearly.
That's why my current primary direct action is to dedicate my life to throwing Akron's mayor Dan Horrigan out of office.
He is just a puppet of the Summit County Democratic Party that has held a stranglehold on Akron for decades. They, in conjunction with the Akron Chamber of Commerce pillage all our resources and hand out multi-million dollar contracts to their friends while we sit with a billion dollars in debt.
He is my Slobodan Milošević. I will not rest until I see him in jail or forever expelled as a terrible embarrassment on the Democrats and Akron as a whole.
All that will be my dedication UNLESS he gives me one thing: ONE sanctioned tent village.
If he gives me that I end my attack on him. I'll move to another city. I'm thinking Barberton is next.
I like this plan because no one has a "right" to an elected office. I'm just enacting my right to American democracy. And my hope is that I might inspire people to appreciate the power they have in local politics. Local politics is the best politics.
Please use this time to not just stew in your anger of Trump supporters. Use this as a very valuable lesson about direct action. Think about what you would do as a leader of the Trump movement. How would you do things differently if you were in their shoes? If all you do is bash them you are not learning anything as a true activist.