Remember that time when people called for civility when Patrick Henry demanded, “Give me Liberty or give me death”? Or the time when Thomas Paine said, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace”? Maybe you recall the time when people called for cooler heads to prevail when Thomas Jefferson scripted, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
If you don’t remember calls for civility from these white men of privilege and station, it’s probably because you mostly recall that they were hailed as heroes and revolutionaries during your schooling. Their words formed the roots of a romanticized “American Exceptionalism,” so I can’t blame you for a lack of total recall.
Fast forward a little more than 200 years later, when millions of Americans celebrate the bravery and moral integrity of those same white men in their defiance of a British monarch on holidays like Independence Day and Flag Day. Today, the words of violence and hostility used by the “founding fathers” toward the ruling class are held up as examples of the principles and heroism that our nation was founded.
In 2018, there is no consensus on whom and what classifies as “civil,” and whom and what does not. Per usual, far too many entitled white men believe they have the right to set the terms of the lexicon and the praxis of the oppressed—believing they get to pull the strings in their role as the Alabaster Puppet Masters.
To these and others who believe they even have a right to tell oppressed people how to confront their oppressors, I have two words for you: Fuck Civility.
The Gentlewoman from California, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (herein referred to as Auntie Maxine). Last week, Auntie Maxine called for increased civil disobedience against members of the Trump Administration when spotted in public places. She encouraged Americans:
“If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
For their complicity in promulgating his harmful policies, specifically on immigration, Auntie Maxine wants you to speak up against the powers that be.
If you’re worried that Auntie Maxine is too uncivilized, keep in mind that she is talking about the policies and followers of a man who has divorced himself more from decorum and respectful discourse than he has from marriages. In his short political career, President Trump has referred to LatinX people as rapists, immigrants as vermin, and majority Black/Brown nations as “shitholes.” He has personally encouraged violence against people of color at his rallies, and women who stand up to him are frequently disrespected for anything from their looks to their lack of education. Trump’s entire career is built on bluster and ignoring civil conventions. That shit literally helped him win him the highest office in the land.
While Patrick Henry is heralded as a true patriot, all Auntie Maxine received for her temerity and valor were death threats and castigation from white men of power.
But if you think that the castigation was limited to Trump and GOP operatives, think again, because two of the more visible white men in progressive politics were as quick to criticize her as Trump was. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor to make his castigation official, stating in part, “No one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That’s not right. That’s not American.” And Senator Bernie Sanders, the “most popular” politician in the country, in turn remarked, “I’m not a great fan of shouting people down or being rude to people,” adding, “Democrats need to take out their anger in a constructive way.”
Here we have white men of privilege—enjoyed because white men in the late 1700s decided to no longer be civil—telling a Black woman—whose ancestors augmented the privilege and status of white slave owners, the effects of which can still be felt today—to be more ladylike. Maybe that’s not ironic; it’s more straight Gangster AF.
Let’s break down why, specifically, as both Sanders and Schumer forgot what James Baldwin taught us,
“The powerless can […] never make the world pay for what they feel or fear except by the suicidal endeavor that makes them fanatics or revolutionaries, or both.”
Yet, Auntie Maxine most definitely elevated the seemingly “powerless” by speaking truth to power.
As it pertains to Schumer, what the fuck is “Not American” about being uncivil?
The Revolutionary War was not fought in public debates, but rather on the battlefield. Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton pulled gats out on each other in Weehawken over their disagreements. And in the “Wild West,” disputes were resolved after ten paces and a quick draw at high noon.
But there is nothing wrong with—in fact, there is something deeply and morally right about—expressing hostility toward harmful policies by expressing hostility toward those who enact, enforce, or espouse them.
Sanders’ criticism of Auntie Maxine is perhaps more surprising. You would think that a white man, who is heralded as a “civil rights champion” because of his arrest in Chicago and university sit-ins, would know better.
Contrast Schumer and Sanders to Hillary Clinton, who came to Auntie Maxine’s defense when the subject of those criticizing her came up, “Give me a break! What is more uncivil and cruel than taking children away? It should be met with resolve and strength. And if some of that comes across as a little uncivil, well, children’s lives are at stake; their futures are at stake.”
Clinton, often criticized for being too measured, moderate, and civil did prove something in her defense of Waters: Many times it takes someone with ovaries to show men how to grow a set of balls.
She responded valiantly at a recent rally for immigration justice, “If you shoot me, you better shoot straight.” In doing so, she invites us all to take a page out of one of my favorite parts of the iconic movie Goodfellas — known by many as the, “Fuck you, pay me” scene.
You want to deny climate change: FUCK CIVILITY
You refer to Black Lives Matter Activists as terrorist: FUCK CIVILITY
You think it’s cool to mascot Native Americans: FUCK CIVILITY
You want to ignore kids fighting for gun control: FUCK CIVILITY
Trying to bleed unions out: FUCK CIVILITY
Think it’s OK to tell women how to behave: FUCK CIVILITY
You want to starve poor children by taking away SNAP: FUCK CIVILITY
Want to shut down the Russia Investigation: FUCK CIVILITY
You want to build a generational conservative judiciary: FUCK CIVILITY
Discussing racial injustice makes you uncomfortable: FUCK CIVILITY
I’ll just close with a message to the men who still believe they have any right to tell a Black woman how to be more “ladylike” in this time of increased white nationalism, patriarchy, and injustice :
“Check yourself before you riggidy wreck yourself.”
The Fuck Civility coalition of the willing shall take it from here while you ride the bench. We have no time for civility, there’s justice to be realized and freedom to be fought for. Get in the game or stay off the field. And to Trump operatives, count on us seeing you real soon.