Humanity is Hard. Protesting is Easy.
We do the young ones no favors by indulging their magical thinking, a dereliction that has led them to see slaughter as justice
"I don't even know what it means to be human anymore," my daughter says, after her Instagram feed shows her a story of two college-age girls tearing down posters for a vigil for kidnapped Israelis.
I tell her, those who have confidence in their opinions do not destroy the property of others; also, that doing so is juvenile and costs activists nothing, as evidenced by the girls having a post-vandalism bagel, the torn posters on an empty chair beside them.
Maybe they could not bear to look at the evidence. Maybe they imagined shredding the images would make them feel heroic rather than just hungry. Maybe, like many young people, they are insecure and go along with what their friends are doing. Which, at least on my feeds, are young people, including some at the most elite universities in the country, blaming Israel for the massacre on October 7 and demanding the country suffer more, preferably by ceasing to exist.
What principles do young people think they are upholding when they desecrate images of the missing and the dead? Also, how do those who've gone to the mat over dead-naming see justice in murdering babies?
A majority of Americans have no trouble detecting the difference between Hamas slaughtering 1200 civilians and kidnapping more than 240 others, and Israel's targeted response, which has nevertheless left thousands dead. Anyone who sees Bearing Witness to the October 7th Massacre, as I did, will be overcome by the horrors Hamas perpetrated on human beings, horrors they themselves filmed and celebrated. Anyone, that is, but those who see progress in hacking off a man's head with a hoe, with killing children in front of their parents and parents in front of their children, with stacking incinerated bodies like so much cordwood.
If progressive students and others on October 7 knew what to think of murdered Israelis - regrettable, maybe, but they had it coming - they also knew what to do: Take the fight to the streets, make their voices heard, shout down opponents, occupy public spaces. They had the muscle memory to do this, had been doing it continually since Trump was the nominee in 2015, an animus fed on disagreements over trans and gender issues, DEI and #MeToo, BLM and the killing of George Floyd. I covered the protests after Floyd's death for months and so far, the public reaction to Israel-Palestine is near-identical. If the script follows form - and this at present is a big if - the protesters will lose interest, having accomplished little besides keeping their appetites sharp for a next issue and its requisite rage calories.
Those consuming and excreting these calories tend to be young and under-informed, at least here in cushy America, where campus revolutionaries have little to lose; it's not their blood in the streets, for which we can be thankful, if appalled at the cultural decadence of it all. As one Harvard student put it, "This sort of activism makes people feel exhilarated. And if it makes them feel morally superior to everyone else, even better. It really is an addiction."
Like all addictions, this one needs to be fed. We've seen that any crumb in the carpet will do: a misused pronoun, an errant tweet. But big issues are best, ones where the tragedy of others can be transubstantiated into vehicles to show one’s compassion, bestowed preferably via bite-sized incantations, BLACK LIVES MATTER and ALL COPS ARE BASTARDS, NO JUSTICE NO PEACE and DEATH TO ZIONISTS.
This last is not spoken aloud much, or not yet. The current chant instead sounds pacific, reminiscent of an Iris Murdoch novel, how bad, really, can FROM THE RIVER TO THE SEA be?
In fact, very bad, though explaining it is code for WIPE ISREAL OFF THE BLOODY MAP and EXTERMINATE ALL JEWS will make little impression, may be seen as a further aggression. This is by design. Today's activists have made a fetish of victimhood, have honed it to a sharp and useful tool, able to carve personal prestige and defenestrate opponents and intimidate potential allies into submission, victimhood über alles, and people on the agreed-upon privileged list (see: Jews) laying claim to the status of victim? That will not do, transgress at your peril.