Terry Manning

America stares down its own ‘fatal funnel’


The day before prison sentences were announced for the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery a story moved across the news wires about another shooting involving a white father and son and an unarmed Black man.

According to reports, on Jan. 3 motorcyclist Stephen Addison got into a “road rage” altercation with Roger Nobles and his son, Roger. Jr. The younger Nobles stepped from the passenger seat of the truck the men were in and engaged Addison in a verbal squabble at an intersection.

Without warning, the father fired a shotgun blast into Addison’s chest. The son got back into the truck, the men waited for the traffic light to turn green, and they drove away. They were arrested at home a short time later.

Security analysis who reviewed footage of the incident captured by a nearby witness noted the younger Nobles gave no reaction to the sound of the gunshot, as if he had expected it all along. Using his son’s body as a shield, the father was able to position himself for a point-blank shot across the cab of the truck into Addison’s chest.

The analysts called the attack a “fatal funnel” scenario, a term law enforcement and the military use to describe an opening through which damage can be inflicted with little to no chance of escape for the intended victim.

It is a situation I fear America is being drawn into by the former president and his supporters who are willing to get their way at any cost. Hyperbole? Perhaps, but hear me out.

First, we have The Big Lie, the allegation the former president lost his re-election bid only because the vote was rigged, that victory was “stolen” somehow. Never mind that he lost the popular vote by 7 million votes and the Electoral College as well by a significant margin following essentially the same rules used in 2016, when he upset Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

I say “essentially” because, yes, some state legislatures added days to their election calendars and promoted mail-in voting in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Historically, Republicans have benefited most from mail-in voting, but once Democrats embraced it the alarms were sounded. Something had to be done.

And so, despite dozens of lawsuits failing to produce ANY substantial evidence of impropriety, Republican lawmakers around the nation made it their singular focus to enact new rules impinging upon the ability of many American citizens to vote freely. The former president’s supporters insist his change in fortune from election night, when he was in the lead, to the days after, when his lead was lost as absentee ballots were included in final counts, is proof that something was amiss.

Something was amiss, alright. Common sense. If you are going to count a vote, you have to count all the votes or there’s no point in counting any of them. “Stop the Steal?” Stop the stupidity.

Then we have the ongoing pandemic. Yes, the former president helped spur research and production of vaccines, but then he gave away control of distribution to states, many of which are led by Republicans loath to show him up by displaying actual leadership.

They waited for his lead, only for him to decide he didn’t want to, not unless you call leadership subverting the process by touting individual free-dumbs — sorry, freedoms — against wearing protective masks and resisting the vaccines over aiding the general health and welfare of the nation.

The former president told his people, go to the beach. Sit under a sun lamp. Drink some bleach. Take this hydroxychloroquine, an unproven remedy. Try this livestock medicine Fox News’ Laura Ingraham likes.

The net result of this (so far) is a solid minority of the population who refuse to do anything to help themselves or others when it comes to fighting the virus, but blame President Biden for struggling to overcome their obstinance.

After that, we have the lingering threat of civil unrest. The former president notably failed to condemn racial activity perpetrated by white nationalists during his term. This implicit condonation empowered them and spurred others who previously might not have turned to violence to embrace the awesome power of its threat.

Even state and national elected officials openly call for armed rebellion in service of supporting the defeated president and his return to power.

How do you reach common ground with someone who looks at you as a literal devil, as sub-human, as an existential danger to a nation they claim to love and are all too willing to die for even if much of what they represent is in direct opposition to the nation’s founding principles?

Did I mention climate change? Weakened gun laws? Sanitized history books? Seizure of women’s controls over their bodies? A burgeoning right-wing theocracy?

The country is in a dark place right now, and I for one am more nervous than hopeful about that flickering light at the end of the tunnel. It might well be a tiki torch.

Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at teemanning@gmail.com.

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