Donald Trump is following in the steps of Alex Jones and other far-right supporters. He’s using his platform to flame the fires of war.
You can see that tweet here:
I’ve got a few words to say about this rhetoric. (** Published originally on Medium on June 10, 2018.)
We’ve only had one civil war in our nation’s history and I consider that a good thing. The war which raged on social media, starting with my tweet, was of sarcasm and no blood was shed in this war of words. I wish we could always keep it that way.
The original hashtag started here (and quickly followed by talented writers.)
There was no malice attached to the tweet. In fact, it was the complete opposite.
When I read Alex Jones talking about a second Civil War, I became filled with rage. On a good day, his message is nonsense, but on this particular day, it was dangerous. He didn’t speak about an utterly fictional second Civil War supposedly being planned by Democrats just once, but three times to his crowd of rapt listeners and viewers who are already living in a political tinderbox.
Jones effectively put a target on half of the country. This was not “only” political rhetoric, but also highly irresponsible.
I’ve often been threatened online and I certainly have strong opinions, but I would never encourage anyone to take up arms against another. The cost of violence and war is too great to us as individuals and as a nation.
I served over 20 years fighting for this country in the US Army. Many of those years were served in war-torn countries. I saw the destroyed homes and museums in Iraq. I visited the Holocaust museums and concentration camps throughout Germany and Austria. I saw the death, despair, and destruction that comes with war. I saw what happens when a country is pushed to the brink of destruction. I saw the children begging for food in the poverty-stricken streets of Panama. I served behind the Berlin Wall, and I saw the hopelessness on the faces of those who lived there, oppressed for generations and only wishing for a better life. I was in Egypt during the 1993 Civil War and saw the upheaval and the despair of terrified civilians. I worked in the Cuban refugee camps, and I saw first-hand the sadness and pain that all refugees must face. In all these cases, there was a physical and mental toll on the refugee survivors that will remain with them in some form forever.
We witness modern civil war and refugees camps on TV in magazines, and newspapers, and online including those currently located at our Southern border, yet Alex Jones uses his words to incite fear and hate in his supporters. He uses his platform to create rather than quell violence and chaos.
During a civil war, progress stops, homes are destroyed, infrastructure falls apart, education becomes sporadic, and medical services are reserved for those who might survive to fight another day. The first to die are children, the elderly, and the disabled; disease and hopelessness set in, and some survivors soon follow their families to the graveyard.
Those who do survive the war are refugees who have no place to call home, no bed to call their own, and no food to share with their children.
If the United States had a second Civil War, this time the refugees on the news would not be the strangers we cast aside or the ones that weren’t allowed to enter our country. They also would not be the faceless people overseas that we send thoughts and prayers to each Sunday. The refugee camps would be overflowing with millions of Americans. Our homes, colleges, museums, coffee shops, malls, and places we worship would all be bombed. There would be nothing left. Abstract as war may be to Alex Jones, this is what he’s toying with bringing into being.
Instead of working together for a better tomorrow and putting our resources towards something greater for our nation, our already crumbling streets would be marked with the throes of war. It wouldn’t matter if the damage was done by the enemy or friendly fire, everyone would suffer. That is the reality of a war in your homeland.
We’ve never in history had access to so much and been willing to throw it away over so little. We have food from almost every country in the world, technology at bottom-dollar prices, more choices of clothing then what some people in the world will ever have available to them in a lifetime — home supplies, party supplies, personal hygiene items, and fruits and vegetables in every color of the rainbow. Education is available at the touch of a button, science kits can be purchased online and studied at home, the Internet is available to most of American children so they can read the great speeches of wonderful men and women throughout our history, find help with their reading or math assignments when their parents can no longer help them, and use apps to produce and create some of the most wonderful music and art available in our history.
Our country has many issues we must work through, but we’ve never seen a time like this in history, where we have the potential to move forward and create the most advanced civilization the world has ever seen.
All of this will disappear if we continue down the path of mutual destruction.
I look around me and realize we have everything we need to survive, and the politicians and their pundits push the idea to throw it all away.
Alex Jones is an adult. I may not agree with anything he says, but he’s not stupid. He knows that his words carry weight and that his audience sees him as their guide. He knows that his words can inspire a mob mentality. For him to insist many times that a civil war is on the horizon is akin to someone shouting fire in a theater or claiming a hijack on a plane. It is irresponsible, immature, and dangerous to the foundation of this country.
He has children of his own. Do the photos of children trying to survive in Syria not haunt him?
My own Great+ uncle William Blount signed the US Constitution, I read articles about our world history daily, and I’m well versed in our own civil war, so when I heard Alex Jones’ false and inflammatory statements I was angry. Angry at the ease in which he used his vast platform to incite hate and anger and to ram a wedge between two groups of Americans. Angry that he would dare to use his voice to incite war and throw away all the sacrifices so many generations of families have given this great country.
In a moment of pure frustration and reflecting on the mass murder of hard-working journalists, our rights being stripped away daily, racism running rampant through the country, and the deep divide we have found ourselves in, I wanted to shout and rage online. I was furious. I wanted to scream and say, “Enough!” But in a moment of calmness, I remembered the jesters in the king’s court and thought of how the talented comedians of today represent those jesters. Jesters held an important role in the great tragedies, bringing carefully worded opinions from the people to the leaders of a nation, telling them the truth in ways that their advisors never would.
Instead of reacting out of rage, I turned my anger into comedy so I could point out the destructive insanity Alex Jones presented to his followers and to the nation.
In one tweet and one hashtag, I wanted to show just how ridiculous his claims were and present the silly daily basics we would lose during a civil war. I wanted to defuse the cycle of angry rhetoric with laughter and sarcasm.
Our country isn’t perfect, not even close. But what we have is a country that we should work towards saving, not breaking apart. We should be working hard together to help house the homeless, aid the undereducated and the jobless, provide care to the sick, and access to the disabled. We should be helping those who have served their time for their crimes to reintegrate into society so they may provide a better future for themselves and their families. We should help veterans find jobs and obtain training in areas which will prepare them for an ever-changing future. We should help parents find resources for themselves so they may provide a better home and education for their children. We must work towards humane immigration and oppose inhumane practices.
We need to be a nation which stands up against evil and supports kindness and compassion. We should be a nation where those who are the future of medicine, technology, education, and manufacturing are welcome in our country, not shunned. We should work with other nations to help all people achieve their greatest potential because alone, we will fail, but as a global friend, we will succeed.
If we continue to fight among each other and listen to the rhetoric of those who wish to throw a match into the tinderbox we now live, we will fail ourselves, our citizens, and our allies. We will fail as a nation.
To Alex Jones, I refuse to give your ramblings of a civil war any credit. I will meet you with horror and disdain. I refuse to allow you or others like you to break my resolve to keep fighting to make this nation a better place for everyone. I refuse to allow you to bring down everything generations of people have sacrificed for.
I will not shed blood on our country’s shores. Your children and your listeners deserve more from us. I may not agree with them, but they are my brothers and sisters in this fight to find the best way forward. We must find a way to create a country where we can support progress for the future for everyone, or we will fail together. No matter what negative message you spread, I will continue to fight hard for the rights of all people and the planet we live on.
I will fight you with legislation, with my vote, and I will continue to fight your ridiculous accusations with as much comedy as it takes to stop more blood from flowing in our streets.
1LT(R), US Army
** This essay was originally published on Medium on June 10, 2018.