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When I first got involved with leftwing political movements, it was for a very specific purpose: to end the war in Iraq. Having recently returned home from my second combat deployment, I was fresh, as they say.
The war revealed too much death, too much pain, and misery. I was angry. Shit, that’s an understatement. My rage was acute, visceral, and far more dangerous than I realized at the time.
Of course, I convinced myself that my anger was righteous. To a degree, that was true. I wasn’t furious for superficial reasons. I was outraged because my friends were dead and I had killed innocent people in the name of U.S. Empire. And I was coping with the consequences of those actions on a deep spiritual, emotional, social, and political level.
Essentially, I realized that I had been used as a pawn. My military service wasn’t dedicated to protecting the U.S. Constitution, but, rather, to protecting the geopolitical interests of capitalists and the state. That’s one hell of a realization to come to when you’re 19 years old.
That righteous anger was my primary fuel source during the first several years of my antiwar activism. At times, it was helpful. Other times, not so much.
In hindsight, I missed a lot of opportunities to take in my surroundings, to understand why others were celebrating small, often symbolic victories, to put aside my cynicism and enjoy the moment. I had turned into another insufferable leftist, yet no one told me. It happened quickly.
Today, I see many activists making the same mistake. Without a doubt, they have every right to be angry with the status quo, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, and the entire Neoliberal clique that will re-enter the White House on January 20, 2021. That said, I’ve been somewhat shocked at some of the social media posts and commentary I’ve seen from friends and colleagues on the left in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s electoral defeat.
At this point in my life, at 36 years old, having spent the past 15 years engaged in some form of political activism, I’ve grown tired of the fringe-left, or what I like to call the Online Left — naysayers and losers who shit on everything because they have nothing constructive to offer. It’s annoying and childish, yet par for the course in left circles.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris hadn’t been pronounced winners for less than five minutes and already my Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds were clogged with posts and essays basically calling Americans who voted for Biden a bunch of ignorant sellouts. How these leftists expect to bring anyone to their side is beyond me.
The images, videos, and live streams I’ve seen today of people celebrating the defeat of Donald Trump look a lot like the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multigenerational, and disproportionately young coalition of protesters who’ve been in the streets since Memorial Day Weekend. As one friend put it, “New York hasn’t looked like this since 2003, when Aaron Boone hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th against the Red Sox to send the Yankees to the World Series!”
Even the Cubans are celebrating! You know, those privileged-sellout-socialist revolutionaries…
Here’s the deal: don’t be an insufferable prick. No one cares about your pithy, cynical social media posts. They’re boring and trite. If you’re a working-class or poor person who wants to see other working-class and poor people get together, organize, fight back, and hopefully create a better, more livable world, it would be wise not to act like an asshole. Simple enough, yeah?
The left should be a place where people find joy and camaraderie. Yes, we should prepare for battle with Biden and the Neoliberal Democrats. Some of us are already making plans. But for the love of God, let us celebrate the defeat of Trump.
And if your life is so terrible that your first inclination at the announcement of Biden’s victory is to talk shit about the people celebrating that victory, my only advice to you is to get laid, smoke a joint, and don’t take yourself too seriously.
Vincent Emanuele is a writer, antiwar veteran, and podcaster. He is the co-founder of PARC | Politics Art Roots Culture Media and the PARC Community-Cultural Center located in Michigan City, Indiana. Vincent is a member of Veterans For Peace and OURMC | Organized & United Residents of Michigan City. He is also a member of Collective 20. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org