I wish I was coming to you with a hard-hitting story about the New Mexico Civil Guard, a group of paramilitary individuals who created a local armed forces group to stand at protests and decide who deserves protecting and who doesn’t. I wish I had a photo that encapsulated the madness these people have caused, showing up to peaceful protests armed like Tony Montana facing the fall of his empire—the recent Oñate gathering at Tiguex Park being just one example. I wish I could express the fear people have felt with their presence in a situation that needs no escalation. Sadly, I don’t have that perfect summation.
What I have is a ragtag group of individuals proudly waving and idolizing the flag, while blatantly ignoring the US Flag Code “§ 8. Respect for flag: (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.” What I have is a picture of a handful of people protesting their right to be free while putting themselves, others and their children at risk by being mostly maskless in public, shouting and cheering that they are free to endanger others. What I have is a group of people gathered to celebrate a country they believe is free, happy and well, while standing atop steps that have “Black Lives Matter” written at the base, missing the irony of it all.
This 4th of July was a difficult one for the country. Some 133,000 people have died of COVID-19 at the time of this article publishing, and sadly that number will probably skyrocket in conjunction with the rapid rise of cases.
Americans came out en masse to yell out against police brutality towards our BIPOC community members and have been met with even more brutality instead. Tear gas is being fired on our citizens by the very force that was supposed to protect them. Our soldiers had bounties placed on their heads, and the President did nothing to stop it. Yet here we are, watching a small group gather on a Saturday morning to say that we’re living in a dictatorship because someone told them they have to wear a piece of cloth on their face.
They are right on one thing; this is a free country. Their freedom of speech allows them to be mad at whoever they want, and to tell people openly about it. Our freedom of press allows us to highlight the absurdity of this all by looking at the situation from afar. They stood on those steps and chanted “My body, my choice” in regards to masks, but might never speak that to a woman’s right to safe abortions. America cannot be the greatest country in the world if so many of her citizens are suffering. She cannot support a system that is crumbling under its own weight.
I don’t have a clean and tidy end to this story. This story comes from a place of frustration with the state of things. It comes from watching unarmed BIPOC draw throngs of police to their protests, while members of this self-styled militia group who show up armed to the teeth are left to their own devices. I highly recommend you check out the article by Matthew Reisen at Albuquerque Journal , who did such a phenomenal job on his story, that I genuinely felt at a loss to try and add anything. So here it is. Thoughts from a man who wishes things were better, and has a voice to call for it. Choose kindness and compassion, everyone.