Threatening behavior

Things are getting a little too heated out there in the real world. People are crossing a dangerous line.

The anger we spew on social media with little or no consequence seems to imply permission, for some people, to take that behavior into the real world.

We’ve all seen the videos of the gun-toting Karens, as they’re now called, threatening people in shopping mall parking lots. Karen seems too benign a label, though I appreciate the graceful way it combines mockery with dismissal. Karens are fear and rage made visible.  We’ve seen the police called because a black person was in a park, or in a neighborhood, or even in their own home.


The racism is disturbing enough. But what about the comfort some people seem to feel with aggressive confrontation?

I spoke with a local health official during the worst of the pandemic, who said that people were showing up at her home to berate her for supporting the governor’s shutdown order. She lives in a small community, and everyone knows who she is. For the first time, she felt uneasy. They were yelling at her in her front yard.

Another local woman I know who is an outspoken progressive, opened her front door yesterday to find a man who’d confronted her at a Black Lives Matter rally standing across the street from her house. He started yelling at her.

She was with her young son. She was afraid.

And worse, she didn’t know if calling the police and reporting the incident was the right thing to do. The police, she knew, were not exactly sympathetic to her political point of view. She had no confidence that they’d put professionalism before politics to protect her family, because she’s heard stories about the local police that made it very possible they wouldn’t.

I hope her concerns about the police were unfounded. She did eventually call them, after several people told her she should.

What makes anyone think that finding out where someone lives, and angrily confronting them there, is acceptable behavior? What makes anyone think threatening people is not wrong?

Just how deep an artery of anger has the current moment cut? And how do we bind it before we bleed to death?


Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.

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