History is full of dark, distressing moments. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what your country’s history entails. Wars, famine, disease, atrocities, bigotry, and oppression are part of our collective narrative. We are flawed, imperfect beings trying to navigate an equally flawed, grossly imperfect world. It’s a challenge and, like any challenge, there are missteps and failures.
By every measure, slavery was a dark moment in that narrative. In America, it is a sad, painful stain on its history. It certainly wasn’t the first country to practice slavery, nor was it the twentieth. However, the very concept of owning another human being stands in stark contrast to the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on which the country was founded.
It took 80 years after the American Revolution to officially end slavery, but doing so required a bloody civil war that killed over 600,000 Americans. Even after it ended, the struggle for justice didn’t stop. Conflict continued in the form of racism, segregation, and white supremacy. Parts of that conflict still continue to this day.
However, where we are now is far better than where we’ve been. No matter how many dark moments our history contains, they’re often contrasted by moments of triumph. The America of 1860 probably never thought slavery would end. The idea that we would have the level of social and legal equality we have today might have been unthinkable.
What once seemed impossible is now real. Things are far from perfect, especially with respect to race relations, but they stand in stark contrast to where we once were. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We shall overcome because the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
That’s the spirit I encourage everyone to embrace today. On this day, on Juneteenth, now set to become an official federal holiday in America, let’s take a moment to appreciate just how far we’ve come. At the same time, we cannot forget how much farther we have to go. Even if that arc Dr. King mentions is long, the extent to which we bend it towards justice is our choice.
To everyone out there who still dreams of peace, justice, and harmony, I wish you a Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I say that knowing this day has more significance this year than it did last year. As bad as 2020 was on many fronts, it was definitely a flashpoint for race relations.
Relations were already not great, to say the least. It didn’t take much to spark outrage and protest on the many injustices that still linger as echoes from our less-than-equal past. The death of George Floyd was a turning point. We’re still feeling the effects of that event and there’s no telling where it will lead us.
Some are already anxious about where we’re heading. Others believe we’re not going there fast enough. Regardless of your politics or ideology on issues of race, this is a day in which we should all take a moment to remember the dream that Martin Luther King Jr. worked so hard to realize.
To some, it was an impossible dream. Some still think it’s impossible, but every dream seems that way in the beginning. In Dr. King’s time, things were considerably worse than what they are now. We’ve made progress since then. We’re still a long way from where we wish we were, but we’re making an effort.
There have been missteps along the way.
There have been failures, setbacks, and gross oversights as well.
That’s to be expected. We’re an imperfect people trying to pursue a beautiful ideal, one which Dr. King articulated masterfully. His words still echo to this day. They’re a powerful reminder of where we came from, where we need to go, and what challenges lie before us.
If you do nothing else today, at least take a moment to listen to Dr. King’s most famous speech. It was the moment he gave form and substance to his dream. It’s bold, but powerful. It’s also more relevant now than ever. The dream has transcended the man at this point, but he’s still the one who gave it life.
Just listen for yourself.
Some words resonate throughout history.
Some people become greater than their life accomplishments.
Martin Luther King Jr. is one of those men whose voice and dream will only resonate more with each passing year. We’ve still got a long way to go towards achieving that dream, but it’s still worth pursuing.
The internet and social media are wonderful. They’ve done plenty of good for the world. People have connected like never before. Knowledge, information, and personal connections have never been easier. These are objectively good things for a social species like ours.
I make that disclaimer because I’m about to talk about one of the biggest negatives that the internet has fostered. I also concede there are far worse negatives. The internet and social media have done far greater harm in certain areas, plenty of which make the news. Some of that harm is just genuinely deplorable behavior. Some is outright illegal.
However, I would argue that one of the most infuriating, yet perfectly activities that the internet has enabled is virtue signaling. I’ve bemoaned it before and for good reason. Virtue signaling is a toxic combination of narcissism, groupthink, clickbait, and trolling. Take everything you hate about the worst people on the internet. Much of it is incorporated into virtue signaling.
It’s the selfish, ego-stroking act of loudly proclaiming that you’re so in favor or opposed to something that you demand acknowledgement and affirmation from total strangers. It’s not enough to just have a strong opinion or do something that’s actually virtuous. These people need the whole goddamn world to pat them on the back and assure them they’re a special snowflake.
There are far worse ways to describe this phenomenon. For my own sanity, I’ll leave it at that. I trust my readers to fill in the blanks without breaking their computer screens. All you need to know is that virtue signaling comes in many forms. Some acts are far worse than others. Like most things on the internet, there’s a spectrum to it.
Like any meme or trending hashtag, there’s a certain range of behaviors that constitute virtue signaling. Sometimes, it’s obvious. You need only see videos and articles whining about how video games, movies, and TV shows are ruining the world by empowering the patriarchy. However, I’ve noticed one particular brand of virtue signaling that’s becoming more common.
Specifically, it comes from the people who are usually the first to whine about virtue signaling. It’s every bit as hypocritical as it sounds, and then some. Virtue signaling is bad enough, but adding hypocrisy to the mix only makes it 10 times worse.
I’ve seen more and more of this pernicious virtue signaling in recent weeks, especially as the NBA playoffs wind down and as the NFL season gets going. It shows up in Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and pretty much any poorly moderated comments section. It usually goes something like this.
“These self-entitled athletes dared to protest social issues! I’m canceling my subscription!”
“Get your damn politics out of sports! Until then, you won’t get a cent of my money!”
“Boycott this league and all the snowflake cucks who work in it!”
“I will never support a league that doesn’t stand proudly for the flag/anthem/whatever political symbol I’ve decided to champion!”
Trust me, it gets worse. It gets much worse.
At the same time, it compounds the cringe. I imagine the people making these comments don’t think they’re virtue signaling. They may see themselves as heroic underdogs resisting some nefarious foe looking to destroy them and everything they care about.
Again, these are sports leagues. They’re a business. They’re main goal is to entertain, make money, and attract the widest possible audience. Sometimes, that audience includes people who aren’t you.
That’s a concept that seems to fly over the heads of everyone who whines and complains about politics in sports, video games, comics, movies, etc. Pick any form of media. Give it any kind of controversial or political undertones, even if it’s indirect. Chances are you’ll get people who call that virtue signaling and some of those people protest by virtue signaling how much they’re against it.
They don’t always see the hypocrisy, but it’s painfully apparent at times. The biggest catalyst, in my opinion, was the very public protest by Colin Kaepernick back in 2016. He stated very clearly that he was protesting police brutality and not disrespecting the American flag or veterans. He belabored and reiterated that countless times.
It didn’t matter. A sizeable chunk of people, who I won’t identify because they make their affiliations all too clear, decided he was this anti-American radical. He didn’t just want to protest injustice. He wanted to ruin America, the NFL, and sports in general. I’ve seen many toxic comment sections and Twitter threads in my time. This was probably the worst.
Again, most of it was just virtue signaling from the other side. Everyone seemed to compete for the right to proclaim they loved America, stood for the National Anthem, and hated Colin Kaepernick with every fiber of their being. They do all of that while calling someone like Kaepernick and other players who protested with him whiny, virtue-signaling America haters.
It’s a cycle of hypocrisy that doesn’t just miss the point. It goes out of its way to avoid the actual substance of what the issue was. Remember, and I wish I didn’t have to reiterate this, the man was protesting police brutality against young black men. That’s a legitimate issue that hurts innocent people. It should be confronted.
Instead, the hypocritical virtue signalers of the internet decide to ignore that issue entirely and make it all about who loves their country and flag more. It’s the digital equivalent of a pissing contest. Everyone wants to yell how much they hate the NFL and NBA. They want everyone to know that they don’t support their league and won’t be watching any games.
First off, I don’t believe them for a second.
I suspect the people who make comments like that will get bored one day, flip through the channels, and settle on a football or basketball game. Nobody will ever call them out on it. Chances are, nobody will ever find out. They may or may not feel a twinge of guilt for the hypocrisy, but they’ll pay no price.
Second, if you go out of your way to post comments in feeds to tell the world how much you hate something, you’re not just virtue signaling. You’re being an asshole of the highest order. The NFL and NBA are not out to get you. They’re not out to destroy America. They just want to entertain and make money. Sometimes, that means catering to a diverse audience.
Certain snowflakes on certain extremes of the political spectrum may hate it. They can whine about it all they want, telling as many people as they can how they’re not going to participate. They’re still the bigger assholes here and considering the scandalous behavior of organizations like the NFL, that’s saying something.
I’m sorry if this rant is dragging, but as someone who’s genuinely excited for football season and doesn’t mind at all seeing athletes protest causes they believe in, this kind of virtue signaling just pisses me off more than most. If you hate the NFL just because they dare to raise awareness of social issues, then I don’t know what to tell you. That’s petty, shallow, and just plain stupid. Virtue signaling is bad enough. Let’s not make it worse by adding whining and hypocrisy to the mix.
A while back, I wrote a piece about cops using the Punisher’s logo. In looking over news clips of that story, I decided that it warranted a full-fledged video on my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. I believe this is an important story and an important point worth making in multiple forms. I hope others feel the same.
There are some topics I generally avoid talking about. It’s not because I’m ignoring or downplaying the issue. I just feel like I don’t have anything meaningful to contribute. It’s for that reason that I haven’t touched on recent issues surrounding police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and defacing statues of historical figures. I’m neither qualified, nor knowledgeable enough to add anything to the conversation.
I support the efforts of Black Lives Matter to raise awareness of police brutality.
I’m against police brutality.
I’m in favor of prosecuting the officers responsible for George Floyd’s death to the fullest extent of the law.
I have little else to contribute beyond that. I acknowledge that my perspective is limited. I’m not a young black man living in an urban area that’s subject to significant police brutality. I won’t claim to understand anything about the issues people in that situation face every day for years on end. That’s not why I’m finally talking about this.
I only decided to throw my voice into the mix when I read a story about police officers using the famous emblem of the Punisher as a logo. As someone who is a lifelong comic book fan, and a general proponent of a fair and just society, this bothers me in so many ways. I’ll even take it a step further. I’ll make a larger statement that I hope other cops, comic book fans, and overall decent human beings can appreciate.
The cops who are co-opting the Punisher’s logo are hypocrites.
There’s no way around it. There’s no nicer way to say it, either. These police officers, who took an oath to uphold the law, are hypocrites on a level that would make Ted Haggard blush.
If they’d read more than one Punisher comic, they would understand why and think twice about plastering that logo on their cars. I doubt they know the Punisher as anything other than that tough, badass ex-soldier who kills criminals in the most brutal ways possible. That’s not even a half-accurate representation of who Frank Castle is and why he does what he does.
Now, I won’t get into the elaborate lore surrounding the Punisher. Most people can find that information easily. But you don’t have to know much of that lore to understand why cops using his logo is antithetical to Frank Castle’s mission.
The basics are simple. Frank was just a normal, law-biding citizen. He served his country. He loved his family. He did everything a decent, upstanding person is expected to do. Then, while picnicking with his family, a group of criminals who have no appreciation for the law, the people who uphold it, or human life in general, brutally murder his wife and children.
That’s what begins Frank Castle’s mission, but it’s a mission that decent, law biding people can’t take part in. That’s especially true if you’re a police officer and not just because Frank is a former soldier. A cop joining Frank’s mission would be like a vegan opening a chain of slaughterhouses.
At his core, the Punisher carries out this mission so others don’t have to. He’s already lost everything. He’s already broken. He’s got nothing left, other than the killer instincts he’d honed as a soldier. That’s why he chooses to channel those skills into taking out the kind of people who murder an innocent family just trying to enjoy a picnic.
It’s worth noting that the targets of this mission are not kids selling drugs, petty thieves, and assholes who park in a handicap spot. Those people may break the law, but they still live within the society the law helps foster. The kind of people who murdered Frank’s family do more than just break the law. They scoff at the very notion of it. They’ll hurt anyone they want and not give a damn about the consequences.
The Punisher is extremely selective. He reserves his wrath for those he knows deserve it. He also breaks the law to inflict it. That part is worth emphasizing too. Frank is a vigilante who murders. He is not and cannot be part of the justice system because he ignores it. He has to because the monsters he hunts ignore it too.
Someone still has to be around to both respect and uphold the law. That’s what good, respectable police officers are supposed to do. To use the Punisher’s brutal methods undermines that critical purpose.
Unlike Frank, Cops also have families, friends, and communities to uphold. They are supposed to enforcers of the law. They’re part of a system meant to serve and protect. If they start ignoring those critical parts, then the system just doesn’t work. It goes back to Frank doing what he needs to do so that others don’t have to.
When a cop usurps the Punisher’s logo, they’re sending a message that they don’t give a damn about a fair and just society. They just want to punish the people they think need punishing. That’s a crude, misguided interpretation that is antithetical to the basics of law enforcement. They may think they’re being badass heroes in their minds, but they failing to see the hypocrisy of subverting the law to enforce it.
This is a big reason why the Punisher’s creator, Gerry Conway, has gone on record as saying he opposes cops using the logo. They’re not just co-opting his creation. They’re using it to justify atrocities. That’s not just wrong. It’s disturbing that anyone who claims to champion the law would take that approach.
It’s also worth noting that in one iconic Punisher story, Welcome Back Frank by Garth Ennis, the Punisher encounters a group of people who tried to follow his example. They became vigilantes as well and tried to punish those who they thought deserved it. They said they admired him. They even wanted to join him. What was Frank’s response?
He shot them dead on the spot.
That, more than anything, proves the hypocrisy of cops who use that logo. They already have a logo. They have a badge and a uniform that tells society they’re there to uphold the law. If that’s not enough for them, then maybe they shouldn’t be cops.