What Would America Look Like If Ruby Ridges And Wacos Happened Every Other Week?
If there is one thing right-wing America really doesn't mind, it's a little bit of hypocrisy. This whole damn month and the month before, the dingbats have been out in full force, insisting upon their right to break the law or break the rules of various establishments because they want a haircut and masks are itchy. They've defied stay-at-home orders, they've risked arrest to open their churches, they've harassed store clerks and people wearing masks all over America, they've torn down memorials and they've generally reacted to being asked to follow some temporary restrictions during a pandemic as if they were being asked to stab their own mother in the face.
And yet, just a few days ago, said dingbats finally rediscovered their love of people following "the rule of law." It was a miracle! Or a police officer kneeling on the neck of an unarmed, handcuffed black man for eight minutes and 46 seconds, killing him, as happens when one kneels on the neck of a person for eight minutes and 46 seconds. One of the two! Then, as people started to protest against this senseless killing, they recalled their love of the rule of law even more, and also remembered how much they hate it when people protest. All protesting is bad -- kneeling, rioting, all of it. Unless one has a hangnail and is super upset about it and the dumb rule of law won't let them get a manicure. Then, you know, they can do all the civil disobedience they want.
They are, after all, The New Rosa Parkses, according to at least one of Donald Trump's advisers. Surely, if Rosa Parks was alive today, she would be far too upset about her nail situation to bother protesting against police brutality.
For all of our flaws, most of us on the left at least tend to be at least somewhat consistent in our ethics. We don't like police or federal agents killing or otherwise harming people when that can be at all helped. We think that's bad even when the people involved are not exactly on our team. You don't see us going "Well, Ruby Ridge and Waco never would have happened if those people had simply followed the rule of law." We don't suddenly call for the death penalty for, well, pretty much anything, including death penalty cases.
But if you want to be factual about it, the Weavers never would have been shot if Randy Weaver had simply "followed the rule of law" and showed up in court to face charges of selling sawed-off shotguns. Or if he had not sold sawed-off shotguns to ATF agents in the first place. Or sent threatening letters to various government officials. The siege at Waco never would have happened if the Branch Davidians had simply left their compound and "followed the rule of law." Or not have hoarded weapons and allowed their leader to rape teenage girls to begin with! But, generally speaking, we don't throw that in anyone's face, because regardless of what they did, or what members of their family did, the Feds should not have killed them. Ultimately, that is what matters in these circumstances and everyone is able to see that.
If you will notice, however, we haven't really had a Waco or a Ruby Ridge since, even though they are still brought up constantly and we still make television shows about them. They were big enough embarrassments that the federal government changed the way it handled things after those incidents. Task forces and Senate subcommittees were formed, the rules of engagement were revised, and we haven't really seen anything like that -- involving federal agents -- since then. Those agents are now trained to keep those kinds of incidents from happening.
It will surely shock you to know that there were also many black people shot and killed by police in the 1990s (and also before then!) and, well, none of that shit happened. Tyisha Miller, Malice Green, Don Myrick from Earth, Wind and Fire and god knows how many others. Nothing changed. Undercover police officers fired 41 shots at Amadou Diallo, an immigrant who had done absolutely nothing besides come home from work that day, because they thought he might be a rape suspect. They were found innocent. That was 20 years ago. Nothing's changed.
What would have happened, I wonder, if nothing changed after Waco and Ruby Ridge? If every damn week, for the last 20 years, there were another siege? What are the odds that all of these white, America-loving Republicans -- the same ones who completely lost their shit this past month because they were asked to wear masks during a freaking pandemic, who sobbed over their hangnails and their hair that was a little long on the sides, who blocked hospital entrances with their cars -- would just be super chill about that? Because I really don't see that happening. They still bring up both of those incidents like they happened yesterday. I have a feeling they would have gone ballistic long before now.
Because let's fucking recap, shall we? We are talking about people who ...
- Show up at pizza parlors they think are harboring child sex rings, with no evidence whatsoever, armed to the teeth.
- Cry all the livelong day because they think Twitter is violating the president's freedom of free speech because they put a wee little note under one of his tweets that, if you click all the way through, shows that Trump is lying.
- Regularly, and very casually, talk about how the Second Amendment gives them the right to overthrow the government and all those liberty trees that need to be watered with blood every once in a while.
- Form entire Facebook groups dedicated to pursuing their dreams of a second Civil War.
- Go on killing sprees because they don't like feminism or they're mad at black people for existing or because they don't like abortion or for any other of the many, many other stupid reasons they've gone on killing sprees.
- Are willing to get arrested in order to fight for their right to have a manicurist take care of a hangnail that's really bothering them. (I'm sorry but I will never, ever in my life be over that one.)
They are fragile as hell. If there were a Waco or a Ruby Ridge every other week there would also be an Oklahoma City Bombing every other week, and every one of us knows it. People would never stand for it. The government would be too scared to even try it.
So why were these police forces not just as scared of killing yet another unarmed black person as the federal government was of getting involved in another siege with weapons-hoarding cult members or white supremacists? Because they thought they could get away with it, they thought people would just put up with it forever. People only do shit they think they're gonna get away with. Now, they're finding out that everyone has their tipping point and maybe, just maybe, they'll do what the federal government did after Waco and get their act together.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse