Not going to lie. Today messed with my actual expectations of life. You think you have it figured out. Then, bam. Fuck your expectations, you know nothing.
Most of us did not think the US would be where it is today. We grew up told that racism was a thing of the past. We saw the horrible sins of yesteryear in history class. Jim Crow laws, race rioting, the rise and fall of black supremacist movements opposed to white supremacist movements. We figured those days were over. Move on to our new utopia of equality and freedom, right? Well, strained race relations are back. Add in all-new global plot twists. Jihadism, the EU in disarray, a turbulent election cycle, and a new cold relationship with Russia. Welcome to the new age. 2016 is the year that historians will point at as the unraveling of what was supposed to be a better future. We thought we were progressing forward through a new era. Yet, much like the US in the 1920’s, we did not pay attention to how it was collapsing.
Yet, this story just has me baffled. I can not fathom how such events reached an odd culmination as they have in Utah today. 2016 has rocked us, but the events here will have us confused for months. The examination of this event will take a long time. Yet, it may hold a key in understanding just how odd our position is today. I recommend the full story on the Salt Lake Tribune. It is something that must be read to be believed. For here, I’m just going to try and understand it from my perspective. I am no expert, but this may be my only method of coping.
To begin, a man enters the administrative office of an elementary school. Mask on, he tells them to evacuate so nobody is hurt. And he just walks out and goes back to his car. Hanging out in the parking lot like he didn’t just threaten a school of children. While the school evacuates, he sends a mass email to everyone he found important. All the way up to the fucking Secretary of State, John Kerry. Calls himself “the radical Islamic jihadist Muhammad Allah Al-Khidr.” Informs authorities that he has explosives. Panic ensues. Police on the scene, parents freaking out. The whole shebang. Informs everybody that he is combating nationwide racism.
Now, here is where I thought I had the story pegged. Crazy Islamic radical decides to jump on the BLM bandwagon for attention, right? Trying to hijack the moral quandary of another movement to secure more attention for his? Nope. Tells them “And This Day I go to kill myself in jail in honor of the most racially targeted group of humans = white police officers.” Well. I got nothing. Not what I expected at all. Proceeds to call black men “the most racist, bigoted group of homo sapien primates.” Then I’m just gone. This is where I realize that I knew nothing about what was happening. Somebody advocating against racism targeting whites. By being racist against blacks. By emailing every media outlet he could find. Advertised by threatening to blow up a school.
I guess I start with the obvious. This man believes the the basic principle of consequentialism. “The ends justify the means.” He is advocating for a cause he believes in. By any means necessary. It just so happens that the means are threatening to blow up children. This is a move the Machiavelli himself would see as ridiculous. There are points to argue about the greater good vs one’s evil actions. Yet, even in the context of Machiavelli, the ends have to outweigh the means. Pragmatism is required to know what means are required for what ends. Staging a giant threat to start a conversation about racism defeats the purpose of the conversation. Nobody is going to care what this man has to say because of the means used. In essence, his goal was unreachable the moment he pulled into that parking lot. People will be so focused on the event itself that his point is lost to noise.
So why the over the top theatrics? Threaten a school? Email Mark Cuban and John Kerry? Read a book to a bomb sniffing robot? Why do that? Attention. Plain and simple, he wanted as many eyes as him as possible. Well, he got quite a few heads to turn. Maybe not the ones he wanted, but beggars can’t be choosers. This is the usual spot where people tend to parrot the line, “don’t give him attention.” See, the colloquial idea is that if somebody like this wants attention, you take power from him by not giving him any. Like how the alt-left deals with radical Islam. The problem lies in the physicality of the approach. See, the advice, “don’t give them attention,” is for those online. Online, people only have words and pictures to get your attention. If you engage them they see the chinks in your armour, and keep prodding. For a guy threatening children? That strategy doesn’t work. Hundreds, if not thousands, were displaced from their schedules and safety. Like it or not, he has our attention.
Yet, with that attention, we gain information. We examine what he says, what he does. We find the method to the madness. And we learn to prevent this in the future. Sure, it seems counterintuitive to spread the story of this guy. It seems like a bad idea to let people know his reasoning and where he is taking this conversation he tried to start. Though, I find usefulness in having the greater society dissect this guy. The more we understand his insanity, the better to combat such radical ideas in the future. Don’t know how much better to put it at 3AM.
Now, for the other issue I had. His advocacy against racism of white people. Police officers, to be specific. With the events in Dallas and Baton Rouge, there is a conversation to be had there. I know this is tantamount to social suicide, but I won’t pad it. Racism against white people is at a high point, and it needs to be discussed. I’m not the one for that discussion, and neither is this man. See, when one talks about racism, it’s not good to start with racism. Calling an entire race “racist, bigoted… homo sapien primates” is not how to have a conversation on racism. It defeats the whole purpose of trying to evoke the conversation to begin with. I can’t believe this is something that needs to be reiterated these days. Racism does not solve racism.
There is so much more that could be dissected out of this event. Did the fact that he call himself a jihadist change anything? How does the public handle something like this? How do the parents handle this with their children? Good luck hiding this information from them. One good Google search, and they can read it all. How does a parent explain this entire microcosm of 2016? I can’t answer that. I can’t even tell myself how to think of it anymore. These are the moments in human life that just make you wonder how the fuck you even got there. If thirty years from now I understand even an ounce of what this means, how it happened, and how it shows our future, I will consider myself a genius.