Fear and Recognition
After an alleged social media post suggested that “Antifa protest in places like El Dorado Hills,” a series of possibly premature and unwarranted actions rocked the small affluent community known for their whites-only Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs). The first action was the closing of the town center and roads in by the Sheriff. Fearing a violent clash between protesters in the small town of forty thousand, the Sheriff also mobilized forty additional officers and fifty National Guards troops. Days later, after no BLM protesters or Anti-fascist looters materialized, the Sheriff deems the social media post suggesting protest, a hoax. The roads opened, additional Guard and law enforcement disbanded, and the hefty bill handed to the taxpayer.
Within days, similar fears of Anti-fascist anarchy in the neighboring town of Placerville (pop. 11,048) lead to residents requesting support from an unusual source. The arrival of the Hells Angels (who the Department of Justice consider an organized crime syndicate) and the Mongols, who, Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) have called the most violent and dangerous motorcycle gang in the nation) were celebrated by some on social media as heroic. Again, frightening men ready for violence protected another sleepy hamlet from fears of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest.
A day or two later, a group of young, mostly black, and hopeful entrepreneurs went on a walking tour through the same affluent neighborhood of El Dorado Hills. Fearful residents again rang the alarm bell and asked neighbors to take up arms to meet the false threat. Not just confined to El Dorado county, similar knee-jerk reactions and scenes played out in cities and towns across the nation. People who once looked to neighborly applications like Nextdoor to find a babysitter, sell their garage fridge or find their lost cat found the tool full of posts about suspicious prowlers and unfounded worries that their police department was shutting down.
Without invitation, partisan politics had made its way past the weird neighbor with the “State of Jefferson” signs in his front yard to ring our collective doorbells. This unwelcome visitor does not want to talk; he wants to fight. Partisan fears of unfounded threats have led to real security issues and needless brutality and murder.
Adding to the potential violence is a generation of armed men who grew up with ideals no longer appreciated. Rousing to an unfamiliar world that has failed to recognize their contributions or current value, they seek a shortcut to public esteem. It is not hard to believe that some fantasize about how good it would feel to thwart an assault or robbery. In seconds an individual could again be relevant, recognized for their ability to protect, and always remembered for their bravery. Like a troubled and unnoticed student become a school shooter, these characters imagine the unwarranted recognition offered by wanton violence. They carry guns in the hope of one day confronting the slow-moving minority Antifa zombies. Looking back over their lives and wishing they had done more, the shortest path to a second chance at recognition is by way of the gun.
Adding to the powder keg is a right-wing media that profited from stoking xenophobic fears and providing an alternative to why these men met the retirement age with less than expected. Theatric talk shows disguised as news created the first half of a fantasy scenario in which aging men saw an opportunity to be the unlikely heroes of a threat unrecognized by a naive world. They joined Facebook and subscribed to sites that promote criminal conspiracies that nurtured a belief that had not a liberal government wasted the meager sum they ever paid in taxes; they would be wealthy and perhaps influential.
Like an unregulated army, these men have found purpose in defending their America, friends, and family from the insidious assault on their freedom to infringe on others’ freedoms. More often, these men have either never served or served only enough time to regret their lack of disciplined commitment. Not anymore, they will not make such a mistake twice. With dogged persistence, they will defend their right to rev their Harleys and play their Ted Nugent loud enough that the WWII Veteran with a hearing aid three houses down, turns off his Wheel of Fortune in surrender. No, they won’t go away quietly, they will rev their bikes while sanctimoniously complaining about the kid down the street with a car radio that is worth more than his vehicle. They are comfortable with hypocrisy and ready to defend the Constitution’s second amendment while trampling on other’s first amendment rights.
These men are mad that the identity as tough guys they worked a lifetime to build is irrelevant in a modern and alien landscape. They will not drink a girly Daquiri, and they will not drink any cool-aid that suggests an incongruence with growing old and still being a badass. No, they oppose a single-payer health care plan because, at the core, real men don’t need doctors, and what is good for the goose is good for the gander. They will take up arms to stop further regulations that may save them from the harmful particles in their water because when they were kids, they drank from the garden hose and grew up healthy. They will stand shoulder to shoulder with whoever looks the most lethal, not because deep down they agree, but because it is the best place to hide fragility. Such men do not want to hear that the Defund the Police movement was more about reforming 911 calls to respond to mental health calls with social workers, they want to stand in solidarity with the guy with the taser, the mace, the asp and the gun on his waist. Tell him that California Social workers make an average of $72,000.00 a year, while a police officer’s average wage is $105,000.00, and he could save some of his tax dollars, and he will respond with anger. He will tell you that social workers cannot handle an armed threat. Tell him that California police make 20% more than California teachers. With a straight face, he will tell you that a Special Education teacher has never had to deescalate a giant Autistic man’s violent fit. Tell him that there were police officers that made more than $700,000.00 in 2018, and he will tell you it was a one-off. Tell him hundreds of California cops made more than $500,000 in 2018, but less than ten teachers made over $300,000, and he will tell you his disability is less than forty thousand a year, and no teacher deserves $300,000.
The truth is, he does want to hear anything about change unless it can help him build a fantasy surrounding a much weaker enemy; his identity is dependent on it.