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The “Dagger at the Throat of America.” My Experience of America’s “Culture Wars,” Part 1

Joe Biden said they came “in rage” on January 6, 2020. And as Congress investigates the insanity of 1/6 — and the cases of participants wend through the courts — I sit in a hotel room hours away from my house.

I am a casualty of America’s “Culture Wars.”

I was run out of my home in a semi-rural town in a battleground state by my own neighbors. My partner is a bona fide former US Marine Corps combat engineer (#1371) who served in Iraq. And this veteran was forced to find a new job, put the house up for sale, and on New Year’s Eve we drove out of that town. I could not bear to wake up one day of the New Year in what I had called “home” for five plus years.

I never understood the mentality of the Jan. 6th rioter. But when it came down to an apology and  literally mending a fence, we went from neighborly to the local police breaking in our door, cuffing my partner and myself, and my being taken for involuntary psychiatric commitment with invalid paperwork as a favor for my neighbors. I stared into the rabid face of  America’s “Culture Wars” then. I have never seen such ugly, proud, unrepentant hate. Not even during my worst moments of violent abuse or sexual attack.

“Culture Wars” sounds like a reality TV show. The “Culture Wars” and “incivility” in the United States runs deeper and darker. What the folks who drove us from our home — and what the rioters of Jan. 6 reject — is any culture, or notion of civilization or society. They believe freedom is free: free from boundaries or basic rules, free from repercussions, free to give in to the darkest impulses, to treat other human beings as less than a dog. Not simply rejecting “we” for “I,” but an “I” that is the “I want! Mine! Gimme!” of a child’s tantrum.

It is Hobbes’ “Nasty, brutish, lonely, and short.” It’s Colonel Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. Lord of the Flies. Saturn eating his own children. It is the sin of Caine. A mass escape of the collective Shadow or Id. It is what war is and does. It is a rejection of the biological need of our species to work and live with others. An inability to accept what is. An alienation from Love and Charity. It is Hell. I saw it on television that day one year ago, and I saw it unfold in my life. Good God, “The horror!”

Screenwriters call the moment the status quo in a narrative is first challenged the inciting incident. If my life were Star Wars (please!), America’s Culture Wars would be the Galactic Civil War between the the Rebels and the Empire, while the moment that regular person Luke sees R2D2’s message is what challenges him to make the choice that starts the drama and brings him into the larger conflict.

I never wanted to be a culture warrior. I have my causes, but I don’t care how you vote (or don’t), or worship (or don’t). I was raised to not talk God or Politics in mixed company. What matters to me is politeness, kindness, and tolerance.

Alas, unlike reluctant Luke, I did not buy a used droid that was on a secret mission. I got three ducks. I was outside clearing weeds with the help of my chicken lady crew, looked at the weeds starting to choke the stream, and thought “it would be cool to have some kinda water chicken to help clear…oh, right doofus, ducks.” Water chickens. Nice one Jess.

I found a hearty breed crossed with Mallards that were good egg layers. I named them Mary, Lizzie, and Sir Frank the Drake. I started them first swimming in the kitchen sink, then the bathtub, to finally joining the free ranging chicken ladies outside. They swam in their kiddie pool, and kept the stream clear. Then one of the neighbors’ Rottweilers killed Mary in the stream.

I guess I wanted more than a “so sorry lol” text. At least a show of “Oh my God, I am so sorry! We’ll make sure we fix that fence when we get back from vacation.” I mean, I would do that simply to prevent someone from citing my dog. Offer vet money, something. Instead, it progressed to “you don’t know what this family is going through!” Well, yep, I am your neighbor, you are going on vacation. To “you wanna war, you gotta war!” Err, no. I was hoping you’d recognize that a boundary had been crossed, and try to make it right somehow. Even a fakey somehow. Like that is what people do when their dog kills another person’s animal, right?

So I cited the dog. Not to hurt the animal, but so they would keep it off our lawn. Well, a few days later I was out on the front porch when I heard a “thwump….thwack” by the side entrance. Someone had shot an arrow into our side entrance from the wooded hill behind us. I called the police the next day. The officer said “Well, it’s only a target arrow.” Only a whah? I don’t care if it was a BB gun. Other animals and people live here, for [cries shakes]! That is reckless endangerment.

I have lived in cities, suburbs, in Central America, in different states, visited Europe and the UK, and I grew up on a farm. But never once has anyone shot at my home or apartment. And in no place was 1) killing someone’s animal or 2) having your home shot at just an “Oh well . . .” situation. People’s standards are fairly similar across the world. What world was I living in?

That was how I felt watching the Electoral Vote Count on January 6th of last year. Like a dutiful citizen who votes and has stake in our society, I watched the mainly ceremonial count. First, some grand standing by Josh Hawley, and then expected the mumbling of some 18th Century-style words holy to our democratic republic and other rituals from Vice-president Pence and other officiants.

Then noises and weird reports from outside the Capitol. Switch to outside as protesters turned violent. Began scaling walls, fighting police, until the entire side of the building was crawling with a mass of humanity. I was horrified. What country is this? One of those “sh-t hole” ones The Former Guy refered to? This CANNOT BE THE UNITED STATES! This is Libya, or a former Soviet republic. But no. That was our beautiful Capitol building that Lincoln made a point of completing during the Civil War.

Later I saw the clashes with police. There was at least one dead officer and a dead civilian among the casualties of this rabid mob. These human beings descended into the worst state of humanity. There was smashing of faces and glass, crazed chases, offices ransacked, and human feces spread on the floors and walls. Like the island in Pinocchio that turned boys into asses meets Bruegel meets Dante. Filled with Prideful hate, let loose from all civilized restraints, the faces were grotesque mockeries of a human face.

Soon, I got to see that face close up. In neighbors, in corrupt police, in the lazy disinterest of detectives, and the cruelty built into the mental health system run by former prison personnel of York County, PA.

That’s where this happened. In the same township, where I lived, and that also allowed the unrelenting harassment of my Fiance and myself. Under the same Chief Damon and York Area Regional Police that held up a woman’s emergency PFA order against her ex-husband allegedly because her abuser was a (disgraced) cop. Her two young children were kidnapped and gunned down by their own father in a ditch by the side of a road. They could not protect that woman or her children, but they sure could spare three or four officers to break into my house, cuff all terrifying 5 ft of me, and kidnap me just a bare week before. In York County, Pennsylvania, every day is January 6th. And this will be my testament to that truth.

Let me know if you want to hear more of my story!

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌπŸŽΈ

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