Tuesday 4th July 2017 was a landmark day for Social Media and Facebook in particular, as the entire internet was set ablaze by what started out as a beer fueled prank but ended with threats of death, and a young Pennsylvania woman being forced into hiding; as fears for her safety began to escalate. It all started when a lady known to the media as Emily Lance decided to urinate on the Stars and Stripes as the usual 4th July Festivities reached their inevitable drunken, jingoistic bacchanalian crescendo. This wasn't something that was planned, neither was it something that was properly thought through. And, whatever people might think, it certainly wasn't done for attention seeking reasons or personal aggrandizement.
Before we go any further I feel that I should point out that although I support Emily, I don't support her action. Not because I love the American Flag and I'm a shoot 'em up gungho Navy Seal wannabe, but first and foremost because I am perhaps one of her few friends who constantly urges her to be more restrained in what she says and does. Not just in this matter, but in connection with a whole variety of issues that are beyond the bounds of this short blog piece. Judging from the reactions that she received in the aftermath of what was little more than a bit of spirited high jinx on her part, it looks as if, more than two years on from when I first started telling her to be careful, I have now sadly been proven right.
Unlike most of the people who have written about all of this, I have known Emily Lance personally for several years. It's certainly true that people who count themselves among her supporters have expressed opinions about what she did from the basic knowledge that they have gained about her from her Facebook posts. But, most of them don't actually realize why she did what she did on 4th July; or that what sparked off last Tuesday's episode is rooted in something a whole lot deeper that can be traced back a good few years now. Death does strange things to people and affects people in vastly different ways. Suffice to say that one day in April some little time ago Emily lost a Mother, a big sister and a best friend all at the same time. The personal repercussions were devastating, and the wound still hasn't properly healed.
Grief does equally funny things to people. The reactions range from deep melancholia to blind rage. For those of us that know Emily well, this wide spectrum of emotions manifests itself around her in real life and on social media on a regular basis. In Emily's case much of this energy is channeled positively. The healthcare industry that poisoned her Mother with Chemotherapy is now poisoning an entire generation of young people with a completely avoidable Opioid Epidemic that is claiming the lives of thousands of persons under fifty a month. Emily's reaction to this wasn't to urinate on the Stars and Stripes. Instead, she and a friend signed up for government sponsored Narcan Training in an endeavour to provide emergency help for addicts at street level.
It should also be understood that Emily is basically a peaceful person. Although described as an 'Anarchist' both by herself and her critics, she is completely non violent, a pacifist, doesn't carry a gun and has campaigned tirelessly for an end to US military involvement in Syria and Iraq. And, although she hasn't said this, it is probably what is happening in Syria right now that sparked all this off. In the early hours of Saturday 10th June Emily posted the first images of White Phosporous being dropped by US planes on civilian areas of Raqqa, that had come directly from a photographer on the ground, on her now vanished Facebook timeline. It would be some hours before either the Alt Media or the mainstream would publish anything on this story.
For those of you who don't know her, Emily's main interests include cats, small children and old ladies. Much of her time is spent looking after all three. When she posted these pictures on the internet she wasn't thinking about emptying her bladder on the American Flag. She was thinking about the cats, small children and old ladies under that barrage. Last year, as the civil war continued to rage in Syria, Emily followed the story of the Cat Man of Aleppo on the internet; as the last stages of the siege of one of the oldest inhabited cities on the planet gradually drew to its inevitable conclusion. As Assad's forces bombarded the rebel held areas of the city with heavy ordnance, Emily's preoccupation was with the fate of the city's cats, and the man who had organized an internationally coordinated effort to feed them; whilst simultaneously driving an ambulance for a local medical charity.
On normal days Emily can turn off the internet and go and do something productive in the garden if things are too upsetting for her. This year's 4th July Celebrations extended right the way through the weekend and into the working week. As the sound of exploding fireworks and the staccato of gunshots from automatic weapons rolled out across the entire country, many cats and dogs were reduced to nervous wrecks by the noise. Unfortunately, events like the 4th July can't be opted out of or switched off in the United States. They are here to stay and in your face wherever you are. By day four of the extended celebrations Emily would have had enough. Enough of the noise, enough of the mindless drunkenness and enough of the symbol that she associates more than any other with the White Phosphorus that rained down like Unholy Fire from the Heavens over Raqqa on that fateful night in June. The rest is history.
This blog piece isn't for her friends and supporters. It's for her haters. For the idiots that think she should be murdered and dismembered like some unfortunate victim in a third rate straight to dvd low budget action movie. The woman you know as Emily Lance doesn't need to be murdered or summarily executed. She needs some sort of bereavement counselling and help with anger management issues. She could also do with some therapy, preferably involving holding, stroking or being with cats. For those of you who glorify America's military prowess, think of the innocent victims of your foreign wars before you pass judgement on Emily Lance.