I hold some truths to be self-evident. There’s a resistance in my chest when I am confronted by what my heart reads as false. That internal pressure–that’s the signature of a principle.

Who knows where my principles come from? A lifetime visceral revulsion at violence, for sure. Or a learned distrust of statements that scrub out doubt and detail in favor of certitude and a simple slogan.

Some things are simply factually wrong. The right wing specializes in those. Thugs in black are not traveling by airplane to destroy your suburb. There are no, do I need to say it, lizard people. The thing about lizard people is if you believe in them, you will believe in them hard. You will lock on like a pit bull on a poodle. We can blast you with a fire hose of truth and you will not let go. So we move on.

But we hear other things, from other quarters. They get repeated. Every age has its platitudes, but time does not always redeem them. Gosh, we used to believe love was all you need, and it isn’t.

One thing we’re hearing now is that all protest is equally worthy. That there is no wrong way. That we can’t tell other people how to resist.

Bullshit. Of course we can. Perhaps what is meant is that we can’t tell people how to feel. And since we can’t know what it’s like to be in their skin, we can’t be critical of their actions. It’s a platitude from a new age in which all voices are encouraged, and every opinion entertained. If Tyler wants to burn a dumpster for civil rights, shouldn’t he be allowed to express himself? Well, that’s one special kind of emotional anarchy, one in which every response is as righteous as every other, and every individual must be a vigilante for the truth as they see it. And if so, that must be extended to those who murder abortion doctors and those who show up in the town square bristling with assault rifles in defense of the freedom to bristle. Should Tyler’s country cousin storm a wildlife refuge for the liberty to plunder public lands?

And we hear that if peaceful protest hasn’t gotten us anywhere, violence and destruction will. Peacemaking is naïve and ineffectual. That’s what warriors have been insisting for thousands of years, but if warring ways have gotten us any closer to peace and justice, I haven’t seen it.

I read a quote from Martin Luther King that was trotted out in service of this notion that all protest is legitimate. “I think,” he said, “that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard.” Which meant he understood why people riot. He sympathized. As Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” Absolutely.

But telling people how to protest is exactly what John Lewis and King did. The Freedom Riders were trained in passive resistance. It took work, practice, courage. It wasn’t easy. It isn’t natural. Blood was shed. But the power of peaceful resistance is immense. It can move mountains.

We can’t tell other people how to protest? Of course we can. We can distinguish between raw feeling and wise action. We can strategize. Under our big, broad tent, we can insist people not pee in the kitchen area.

Same for any blanket characterization. It’s easier to look at the world this way, assign people simple uniforms of good and evil and play them in our heads like checkers, but it won’t be true, and the truth will out. There are a lot of good ideas for police reform and defunding. But when you deride cops as an evil monolith, you’ve lost me. Because I know it’s unfair. It’s untrue. It’s lazy. There’s plenty of work to be done, but you will not achieve justice with a false premise.

I’m sure it’s satisfying to punch a Nazi. It’s also a great way to get a lot of people dead and keep a lot of the wrong people in power. Let your heart ache, but use your head.

This town is all in for Black Lives Matter. It’s not even controversial. So the Patriot Prayer Boys are coming back on the 26th. There is nothing this gang of outsiders likes better than to costume up, invade our home as if it’s enemy territory–and it is–and holler about their favorite little fragment of the Constitution. To provoke a predictable response and get it made into a poster for the evil empire. Maybe spark a war. Why do we want to give them exactly what they want?

Let’s stay home for a day. Or gather peacefully in a glory of numbers, miles away from them, and sing. Sing anything. America the Beautiful. Build Me Up Buttercup. Let’s dispatch one dude with a tuba to march around the Proud Boys with derp music. How flimsy a fist will get when its target turns away! Let’s ignore the incel army and watch them go limp.

If you value peace you stand up for it every time. And you work for justice.