I remember speaking to a young man who had been involved in gangs in East London, he has turned his life around and was helping me run a sports day at a young offenders institution just outside of Durham.
In fact this was no ordinary young offenders facility but one used for some of the violent young offenders in the country, I remember two things fro that day, the incredible sunburn I got as there was no shade in the yard anywhere and how ordinary some of the young men in the institution were.
My friend and colleague that day was a talented grime rapper by the name of KC or Kashy , I remember talking to him about the guys in there and he related to me the thing he found the most weird about his previous life.
“The thing thing is, Wayne” he told me “ is one second we can be laughing and joking about playing PlayStation and in a second someone could be stabbed or shot, things go from 0-100 in no time”
I guess most of us are used to seeing a highly stylised depiction of violence on TV and film drama, often the violence , there is often a slow build up to ramp up the tension and drama, real life is not like that, violence and be fast, brutal and shocking.
I remember watching the news years ago just prior to Yugoslavia falling apart , I remember news reports as the tensions ramped up but even then the commentators did not expect the fractions to go to war, when it came it was fast , brutal and shocking.
As I watched the scenes unfold in Washington last week it struck me how quickly things escalated. Afterwards on Facebook there was a debate as to whether it was hyperbole to describe it as a terrorist attack. One person argued it would somehow lesson ‘real’ terrorist attacks, I didn’t see it that way, when lawmakers and senators are cowering in terror, where police officers are killed in active duty and pipe bombs and cable ties are involved, where a baying crowd are seeking the Vice President to hang and gallows are built on the capital building lawn it sure looks like terrorism to me.
However, I do cead that for many the people there, were simply caught up in the moment, they are everyday people who got over excited. When I was a kid watching speeches like in brave heart you can see the power of speeches in rousing a crowd, we saw last week how a roused, charged up crowd and quickly go out of control. It scares me sometimes how people can be so quickly radicalised and become a baying mob, I imagine in the cold light of day afterwards and knowing the damage and loss of life the rampage caused many of the people would be ashamed of themselves.
Yet the image of the police officer on the ground being struck with flags as onlookers cheered on is a scary one. People with Jesus saves banners storming the capital building next to guys with confederate flags and Auschwitz T shirts is as jarring as it is juxtaposing.
One hot take that come back time and time again is how fast, brutal and shocking it was.
Arnold Schwarzenegger perhaps more than many political commentators managed to catch the mood of the nation, the one time action hero appeared almost presidential himself between the Stars and Stripes and flag of California. And from personal experience, Schwarzenegger was able to address the right wing cosplayers in “Camp Auschwitz” T-shirts, because he grew up in an Austria that, in contrast to Germany, went into denial about its role in the war. Schwarzenegger spoke about his angry, depressed and abusive father who beat his children. He spoke emotionally about how not everyone was a nazi a lot of the people just got caught up in it, they went along with it, he spoke about how it had left people fighting with what they had become.
But that’s the point I guess, violence is shocking and brutal and while most people who turned up for the stop the steal event didn’t get involved there is no denying not only where there people there with evil intent on their minds, terrorists if you will, but also a sizeable crowd got fought up in the moment. We all witnessed the results of this. We can live in denial of this or we can address it.
But I here you say , what about last summer, what about BLM protests turning into lawlessness and mobs looting , what about Antifa. Well absolutely yes we cannot excuse it on one hand and deny it on the other, we need to address it regardless of our political affiliation.
That said at this present time it is the right wing of America that has been activated, upset at the assertion that the election was stolen ( despite no evidence being accepted in the courts) a president who is an incendiary agitator, political and media figures who put partisan affiliation over the safety and protection of the people. Views that only a few years ago were viewed as extreme are now in the mainstream and even as I write this the FBI are warning that certain nefarious sources are already planning the next act of insurrection.
My prayer is that A country I am very fond of, I have many friends in, a country that has a certain sway over the whole world both politically and culturally, will be able to pull back from the precipice it finds itself on. I guess you may read this and think , what you on about Wayne, this is America, that’s not who we are, well to you I would say a week ago no one thought an assault on the capital building was possible, it was.
Remember the words of KC , violence and violent acts come when you least expect it and when it arrives it is often fast, brutal and shocking.