Right Wing Violence: My Stories (Part 2: Mace in your Face)
Please read part 1 here. In the lead up to the first Gulf War in 1990, millions of people did something never before seen in history: they took to their feet to preemptively stop a war that hadn't even begun. I was one of those millions, attending several huge demonstrations in Washington, DC, along with at least a half-dozen smaller protests in Baltimore City. At one of those demonstrations I bought a bumper sticker that said simply "No Blood for Oil" and put it on the rear bumper of my car. I also made up a small sticker of my own, about three inches by two inches, which read "Impeach King George" over a black and white image of George Bush. That sticker went on my side rear window.
In the yellow-ribboned, pro-war, "support the troops" atmosphere that set in when the bombing began, I got my second taste of right wing violence. In a discussion with a coworker about my antiwar beliefs, she started screaming at me—barely coherent rants about how Saddam Hussein would attack the US if he wasn't stopped and that I was a traitor. "You should be taken out and shot," she said.
In the following months, I was forced off the road while driving—twice. The second time, a truck edged me off the road and I almost drove into a ditch to prevent a collision. That's attempted murder, from my perspective.
My car was vandalized multiple times. My windshield was smashed, rear windows broken, and on one occasion the vandal(s) poured motor oil all over the interior. I found notes threatening violence under my windshield wipers on two occasions.
At antiwar protests in Baltimore and in Washington, D.C. I paraded past angry counter-protesters, and thought their numbers were small, the invective they hurled at the peaceful marchers was vicious and threatening. Only the police presence prevented actual violence—one reason why I always make it a point to thank the police at political rallies.
After the war ended I hoped the venomous opposition to peace activists would end as well. But one night, a few weeks after the war's end, when returning home late from work, I stopped at a 7/11 for something to eat. As I was getting out of my car, three college-aged men pulled up beside me. They were all wearing red, white, and blue leis around their necks. One of them pointed to the "Impeach King George" sticker on my side window and said something to his friends. I went into the 7/11 and purposely meandered while the three of them snickered and talked in low voices. I hoped I could wait long enough that they would leave.
Fifteen minutes later they left and I finally made my purchase. But they were sitting in their vehicle, waiting and staring at me as I got into my car. I drove off and they followed. I made several quick turns and looped around trying to shake them, but they were clearly tailing me. My house was only a few minutes away—my hope was that I could make it home and get into the house without an incident.
I pulled up and stopped near my house, but far enough away from the curb that I could still drive off if necessary. The car with the three men pulled up next to my car, on the left. I rolled down my window, and the passenger in the car rolled down his.
"What do you want?" I asked.
They laughed. The passenger asked, "So you don't like George Bush?"
"No," I said. And then suddenly, my face got hit with a burning spray. I struggled to roll up my window, but the spray kept coming. The passenger laughed and screamed something unintelligible as their car took off.
My eyes started swelling shut. I tried to catch up to them and get their tag number but my vision was narrowing. I gasped and wheezed—it was impossible to get a full breath and I started hyperventilating. I stopped the car, climbed out, and stumbled toward my house. Had they sprayed some kind of poison in my face? Was I going to be disfigured?
Mace. I'd been maced. At least I hoped that's all it was.
Snot ran from my nose and my eyes felt like they were on fire. I managed to knock on the door, yelling, and when my roommate finally opened it up he was brandishing nunchucks. After a few minutes of immersing my face in water from the shower, I could finally breathe, though it was almost impossible to see. My roommate called the cops. They showed up fairly quickly, took my account, and said they'd look for the guys who had assaulted me.
They never found them.
That was then, almost two decades ago. But some things don't change much.
The Far Right breeds violence because its leaders insist that the natural order—ethnic, religious, political, and cultural—is under attack by literal evildoers. And those who feel they are under attack feel justified in defending themselves by any means. Progressive ideology, on the other hand, embraces nonviolence, inclusiveness, and change.
So the commonly voiced idea that both sides (Left and Right) are equally responsible for the current vitriolic political climate is false. Lefties aren't openly carrying weapons at political rallies, advocating sedition and armed rebellion, and suggesting their opponents are malicious, lying subhumans secretly intent on destroying all that is good and holy. The violence, in rhetoric and action, is coming almost exclusively from the Far Right, stoked by the irresponsible, but carefully crafted, words of its leaders in the government and the media.
Take it from someone who has met that violence firsthand—this isn't theoretical.