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Power and Privilege

Tree of Life Synagogue

“Power concedes nothing without demand,” said Frederick Douglass in 1857. “It never did and it never will.”

Power is privilege, and when in the course of human events power and privilege is exposed and threatened it strikes back with a fury. We are living in a time of reaction; after decades of revolutionary change, those whose privileges have been justly eroded are striking back with legislation and violence. They want to roll back the clock to a time when they believed their privileges were unquestioned.

They also, through rhetoric and hate mongering, have come to believe that a loss of privilege is a loss of rights; that not automatically being ushered to the head of the line means the system is unjust. They have become so used to inequality that they cannot imagine a world without it, and assume that revolutionary change simply means someone else has the unfair advantage they enjoyed for so long. They cannot see that real justice takes past injustices into consideration to reach a balance.

And whipped up by politicians and pundits protecting their own power and privilege, this vast number who have accepted being stepped on only because their position in the strata of an unjust society allows them to step on others has become convinced they are in a life-or-death struggle. Life or death – when that is the fight anything goes. Even shooting elderly people who survived the Holocaust. Or children in a church. Or driving. Or at a restaurant. Or students. Or walking down the street. Or in their own homes.

When a system has stripped them of any economic security all they have left is the privilege of looking down on their fellow oppressed and shouting, “I AM BETTER THAN YOU!” And when that privilege is threatened they feel they have nothing to lose, and their masters aim them at those fighting for justice, or at some traditional scapegoat.

And I feel zero sympathies for these tools of violent oppression, these ignorant, deluded foot soldiers in the fight against freedom. I understand how they are manipulated by powerful forces, lied to, squeezed until they pop, but I don’t feel sorry for them. They accept the lies, the manipulation, the propaganda because they benefit from them. Not with jobs, or money, or a better life for their children, but for a stupid sense of superiority, with useless privilege. The factories are still gone, their pensions still raided, their houses foreclosed on, their cars repossessed, their kids on opioids – their lives are still shitty part-time pizza delivery jobs – but they will kill to protect a mentality of privilege bestowed by something as beyond their control as the color of their skin, which genitals they have, their sexuality, their heritage. They are adults with free will, and if they choose to do hateful things, they have earned hatred. They are frightened, but they should grow the f*ck up; they are blinded, but with blinders they refuse to take off; they are stormtroopers because it is easier to fight against the oppressed than it is to challenge the oppressor. They are cowards who shoot innocent people.

And their numbers are growing.

“Love thy enemy” is the sort of thing an oppressor convinces a slave of, it is a philosophy of powerlessness. Recognizing the humanity of your enemy is not the same as loving them. F*ck that. I think you should treat your enemy like your enemy, but it is essential that you know who your f*cking enemy actually is. These workers have decided that their real enemy is the other workers (who have never oppressed them) only because a billionaire, or their parents, or Sean Hannity, or their minister told them so, that justice for all the oppressed means oppression for them. These people are dangers to us all, not because of the color of their skin, or their gender, or their class, but because of the choices they are making as adults, and of their own free will. They are wannabe SS, and they will fill the ranks of fascism unless we stop them – and their Fuhrer.

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Michael Gene Sullivan is an Actor, Writer, and Director. Find him on Facebook or check out his website.

Michael is a Guest Contributor to Progressive Army.

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Power and Privilege