I was perusing Facebook and some other social media sites for nothing more than some casual browsing. I’ve curtailed such activity lately as it seems I’m stepping into a world of tough guy keyboard warriors who threaten and try to intimidate from the relative comfort of their couch, basement or single room apartment. I’ve discovered radical leftists, conspiratorial rightists, and armchair philosophers who think they know much more than they do, doing little else but parroting their professors or the repeating tired old tropes. It’s depressing and disheartening but such is the case in our timeline these days.

I came across one interesting thread that made me think. It was a thread discussing the events at the Capitol Building the other day with both parties denouncing the violence but more than one of the posters defending property destruction as a legitimate form of protest. Not the Capital Building, but other protests last summer. Their argument was that such destruction forces the powers that be to recognize the cause, shines as bright a light as can be on the problem they’re protesting about, and is generally the last recourse to be heard, a recourse taken by frustration more than anything else. Finally, that said destruction didn’t matter anyway, as insurance would pick up the tab, the latter a trope bandied about by some media personalities last summer and clearly glommed onto by some in that thread.

As I read the thread there were a few thoughts running through my head, not the least of which was why I was subjecting myself to such folly, but like a bloodhound on a trail or an over curious cat, I continued. I found myself wondering if any of these people supporting property destruction ever owned a business, or built something with their own hands. I pondered whether or not these pro-property destruction people ever sank their life savings into a business, drained their retirement for the same or watched their dreams go up in a cloud of protest smoke because some people don’t like X – whatever X happens to be – and want a change.

The proposed nobility of the act of protest knows few bounds these days, and those professing that property destruction is a legitimate form have forgotten there are ancillary victims, people who are trying to live their lives, provide for their family, offer needed services, or simply were living their dreams – a dream ended with a firebomb through their store window, looting of their franchise business or a storming of their small cafe all in the name of social justice or some other noblesse du jour.

I wondered as a kept reading if they saw the black business owner crying real tears as his sports bar was trashed, the very person of color they were protesting for. I further wondered if they knew that he probably had insurance but it was going to take time to rebuild, if he or anyone else could  rebuild as that costs money too. Did they take into account as they were discussing the virtues of violent protests said business owners had to eat, to have income, pay their mortgages, maybe college tuition or heating/cooling bills?

Most small business operates on very thin margins which is why big box stores or large corporations have an advantage, their margins, due to their size, much larger and easier to cover. These small business – Mom and Pop, if you prefer – are not generally massive wealth generators but do provide a living for those involved. Overhead is usually high, as is rent for the building unless they purchased the building in which case there’s mortgage to consider. This on top of insurance, which will now surely go up, making the business that much more difficult to maintain, and if they’re renting space, the destruction will make their rent go up too as the landlord’s costs will rise. There are no winners here, not even the violent protestors whose noble gesture becomes now something more akin to violent, malevolent, willful destruction that loses the entire point of the protest publicly, while the business owners watch their dreams burn to the ground, a lifetime of work, hope, dreams, and love gone.

That’s the part I kept coming back to the most as I contemplated their argument. My father was a small business owner for over 40 years. He loved his customers, loved his business and devoted most of his life to making it work. At times it was a struggle, in others, the joy of his existence.

He joked with customers, knew virtually everyone that came through his doors, and always greeted them with a smile. “Mayberry” they called his little restaurant because of its warmth, good food, and the man behind the counter whose very life essence permeated the building. I didn’t realize it at the time as I worked there, too busy in my own world to “get it”, but I do now, years after I’m gone and a couple years after his passing.

My heart broke for those people as they watched their dreams die in the night. People of every race, color, creed, and religion had their livelihoods shattered in the pursuit of some perceived noble cause that actually did more damage than good both physically and psychologically, things those armchair philosophers would never understand, lost as they are in their academic world, a world that has very little connection to reality.

So, they stood there, those now out of work business people, crying, fearful of the future, and dead inside as all they worked countless hours for ruined by others who could never understand the love, work, patience, and dedication it takes to create and maintain a small business. Their grand notions of social justice can’t seem to penetrate that world, and for all their posturing and pronouncements of their benevolence and good will to make the world a better place, all they really did was sow the seeds of destruction and despair, killing the dreams of so many people from all walks of life who were innocent and just trying to make an honest living. 

It doesn’t matter. These words won’t either. They’ll read them and dismiss them because, they’ll argue, it takes some pain to make the world a better place. I would suggest to them to start their own business, nurture it with love, and pour everything you have, body and soul into it. Then, let someone come and firebomb it in defense of their own notion of social justice. Let’s see if they still feel the same.