Charlottesville Pt. 2: The So-Called Alt-Left Speaketh
One thought before I return to my piece on Charlottesville: I shudder to think how many more atrocious acts of violence will happen (ie, Vegas, the Mogadishu bombings, the continued starvation of Puerto Rico, the cholera outbreak in Yemen we helped cause now being set to claim a million sufferers by year’s end) in the time it takes me to write my next entry. It’s hard to keep up with. If only Robin Williams could have held on for a few more years, he could have moved into a motel room in outer space. Okay, bizarre aside over.
Part II: The House is Rockin’ (With Domestic Problems)
The Battle of Charlottesville is merely the latest episode in these left versus right street fights, and it is an embarrassment that the collective outrage at the very existence of these groups didn’t come sooner. We can look at the last several decades, we can talk about the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia in 1985, we can talk about the Violent Crime Bill and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 championed by noted feminist icon Bill Clinton, we can talk about twenty-plus years of the intense and targeted mockery of Latinx people and the intense and targeted demonization of Muslims in our entertainment industry, but let’s just look at the last year. After all, this has been the year of Donald Trump. Seeing recent history has been like watching bacteria grow at an exponential rate.
Before Charlottesville, before Jeremy Christian slashed the throats of three heroes (and someone please tell me how it isn’t terrorism when these guys are literally using the same killing methods as ISIS), before the June 4th riot in Portland, where hundreds of protesters were kettled and doxxed by the state for marching in opposition to the same forces that terrorized Charlottesville, before the disastrous May Day march (25 comrades jailed is not a victory, much like the pyromaniac Damion Feller was not committing an act of valor), before the Montavilla “Free Speech March” where we all first met Mr. Christian’s ugly, bullet-holed babyface as “that asshole who was sieg heiling and dropping the n-bomb before his own side told him to go home,” before the Battle of Berkeley, before riot cops descended on us for staging a peaceful die-in on Southwest 5th Avenue for Quanice Hayes (we were armed with daffodils), before the violence on Not My President’s Day, before the Inauguration Day protest on J20 (two dates where the ACLU called the actions of the Portland Police Bureau “wrong and illegal” and “shameful,”) before I saw that red cancer growth on the Election Night map, before Philando Castile, before Sandy Bland’s mysterious death in custody, before Michael Brown, before DL Hughley cited an FBI report about white supremacists infiltrating law enforcement ten years after it was initially published, those of us who knew our history understood and acknowledged Trump’s bald racism for the call to violence that it is.
The killing of unarmed black people by the police is still an ongoing scourge. Trump’s campaign announcement, where he denounced Mexicans as rapists and killers — while not mentioning that white people in the United States are most responsible for rape and murder — did not say it directly, but it was meant for every little George Zimmerman out there to hear that their day of atonement was coming. “Make America Great Again.” Sure, you will, Don. Some of us heard that slogan and could read between the lines. Trump played off of the uninformed and unfounded fears of Middle America, but his self-created image of the grandiose chump, pledging to “bomb the shit out of ‘em,” joking about his dick size, and threatening protesters, was just showbizzy enough that liberals watched not in wide-eyed disbelief but in wide-mouthed mockery.
They laughed at this.
In this idiocracy, this fast food nation with its 72-hour attention span and corporate propaganda masquerading as news media, no one with the power to do so had the spine nor the courage to slam the brakes and make a concerted effort to stop it. Whether you supported Trump or scoffed that the “flyover states,” populated with, as one mainstream politician put it, “a basket of deplorables,” could have their say on the national level, please know this: you created this reality.
Racial violence has been so normalized in our society that many of us have, intentionally or not, seen a black man’s life ended by a trigger-fingered Grand Dragon bitch with a badge. It used to be that they sold postcards of lynchings, but now your video will play after the ad.
We have had a rash of terrorist incidents with unhinged white men perpetrating acts of violence, only for the terrorism to be explained away by lawyers, criminologists, and psychologists. (Vegas happened after I first wrote this piece, and while I have my ideas about the shooter, this is not the time to share them.) Adam Lanza and Dylann Roof weren’t terrorists, they were simply “lone wolves.” Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were just “misunderstood.” Timothy McVeigh was “lost.” Jeremy Christian a “victim of mental illness.” Wade Michael Page was a “far-right radical,” his membership in the Hammerskins barely getting any press. Mark David Chapman was described by Ted Koppel as a “kook.” Charles Manson, David Koresh, and Jim Jones were mere “cult leaders.”
Trayvon Martin received nowhere near this much clemency. Indeed, saying he was in the wrong place at the wrong time is still a form of victim-blaming. The list of racial slurs on Wikipedia has some truly vile, reprehensible content for every color under Surya…except for whites. In the white section, all the terms are archaically playful — “Charlie,” “Honky,” “Cracker” — and also included is the term Yankee. Yankee, as in, the baseball team. Yankee, as in, doodle dandy.
These men and their actions should have been denounced in their time as acts of terror. It is time to call this what it is. When there is a whole crowd of Dylann Roofs marching across a college campus with torches, chanting the Nazi slogan “BLOOD AND SOIL,” their own chant of “YOU WILL NOT REPLACE US” morphing into “JEW WILL NOT REPLACE US,” armed with intent to cause harm, there is no other label. These are terrorists. They terrorized a community, a college campus, they hurt people, and one of them used a vehicle as a weapon to take out 20 unarmed people at once. They killed. These seemingly average, milquetoast, blander than mayonnaise whites are terrorists…and yet, look at them.
We all know these people, all of us, and it is their buttoned-down, tucked-in, slick-haired acolytes who I find the most chilling within the ranks of the Alt-Right. We can’t call them converts because that would mean they grew up believing in something else. Their beliefs did not crystallize yesterday. These were the guys in college who would think they were being punk as fuck for contradicting their humanities professor over immigration or gay rights. These were the campus rapists who never got caught. These were the guys who, when they were little boys, were praised as “go-getters” for being unchecked playground bullies.
These mini-tyrants occupied a number of podiums through the years, be it blogs, vlogs, or tweets. Frank Zappa gave one a much-deserved comeuppance in “Bobby Brown Goes Down,” but nearly forty years later Bobby Brown is now running for Congress. Some blame rests on their “Me Generation” parents, whose materialistic and permissive style of child-rearing came from their own experience as the offspring of Great Depression-borne disciplinarians. Nobody won the civil war of the 1960's, as the selfish, indulgent hippies who ran away from home in search of the perfect high, the lost chord, or the ultimate rush came out of their haze as calculated, “cultured” yuppies.
Inasmuch as Antifa is not a movement that was born on MySpace, neither is the Alt-Right and their message of unfettered “free speech” (racist reductionism that borders on eugenics), “nationalism” (hateful xenophobia, again rooted in the ideas of the eugenics movement), and “chauvinism” (unbridled misogyny over the fear that their wives will no longer be their surrogate mothers). The Alt-Right wants things to go backwards, not to see things stay the way they are and certainly not for society to progress any further towards a diverse, multicultural American future. The false equivalency made by Trump, conservatives, moderates, and even some liberals still that Antifa are “just as bad,” or that responding to violence with more violence simply perpetuates it, also needs to be addressed. Look at Antifa and what Trump labeled the “Alt-Left,” and may I never use that phrase again, compared to the Alt-Right.
Compare the words of Dr. Cornel West, an American hero who thanked and praised Antifa for saving the lives of clergy under threat by the enemy in Charlottesville, with those of Richard Spencer. West frequently quotes the Bible and looks to Jesus of Nazareth as a source of strength, guidance, and wisdom. He speaks always from a place of love. When I had the honor of seeing him speak in 2009, he yearned for an America where one’s greatness is measured by character and not by one’s financial assets. If you don’t think Jesus was a Socialist, go listen to Brother West.
Spencer, by comparison, is a mincing crybaby who attempts to legitimize his shameful racism by hiding behind a three-piece suit and a stupid haircut. He hailed Trump and “our people,” referring to white European Americans, at a rally, where the response was raucous applause and Nazi salutes. Everyone who wanted to see him punched when he first came onto the national scene, luckily, got their wish granted.
Jeremy Christian declared “Death to Antifa” at his first court appearance. The Alt-Right felon thug known as “Based Stickman” declared “open season” on Antifa in one of his tweets. Antifa means anti-fascist. Fascism is a mode of government where the state favors business interests over those of its people, often led by a charismatic dictator. These people are in favor of fascism. It starts with Robert E. Lee, takes a field trip to Germany, passes by the Reagan White House, and then ends at Trump Tower.
However, we must acknowledge that fascism has been the endgame of American capitalism, strangely enough, since World War II. Reagan dropped a wreath on a Nazi grave and privately admitted sympathy for the Third Reich. I know he has been saying some great stuff lately, but Barack Obama is a fascist, too. Liberal fascism is meant to look attractive, but it is still fascism. So is Bill Clinton, and so is his wife Hillary. The Bushes made a joint statement condemning the events in Charlottesville, but may our memories not fail us as we remember actions speak louder than words. Those two pigs, father and son in the same pen, were but softer, smiling variants of what we currently have in the White House.
Naomi Wolf wrote of the oncoming Fascist America — ten years ago. Consider what Antifa is fighting against and fighting for, compared to the white nationalists, hatemongers, and white supremacists of the Alt-Right. Antifa doesn’t have to wrap its mission statement in code words so as not to reveal their true intentions. Antifa wants a better world for all. The Alt-Right wants a better world for some. Antifa are also not murderers.
Governor McAuliffe of Virginia said some powerful words towards the Alt-Right, that they were unwelcome and to go home, but where he went wrong was that he praised the police and did not credit the Left for their role in helping keep the community safe. The police weren’t doing their job in Charlottesville, and from the look of things, they weren’t exactly up to snuff as pilots. Still, McAuliffe was miles ahead of Trump, whose response in no less than three separate statements to the press repeated the myth that violence occurred “on both sides.” May we never forget that. As he continues to double down on his rhetoric, skating closer to making a big bold decision to criminalize anti-fascist resistance, I don’t think he will let us. He is a wicked man. I think he is even demonic, as per Vedic injunction.
His role in encouraging, allowing, and defending these traitorous monsters and their terrorism brings me to the conclusion that his support for them may go beyond a moral level. After all, he encouraged violence against protestors at his campaign rallies, he offered financial support towards any legal fees resulting from this violence on the part of the perpetrators, he has encouraged racial profiling from our law enforcement, he has encouraged police brutality, and he threatened violence against Black Lives Matter. Using the most basic logic, Donald Trump has encouraged, supported, and defended terrorism. That’s treason.
In a world with true social justice, one which I must say for legal reasons does not exist, Donald Trump would be branded a terrorist. He is an ideologically damaged demagogue, a dictator with a red tie and a combover. This racist, sexually abusive, ableist, Islamophobic, casino tycoon, one-time meat magnate, diploma mill-runner, and denier of climate change stands for everything I am against and against everything I am for. We can fantasize all we want about this worm going to trial in the Hague, with his generals and racist maggot collaborators like Giuliani, Sessions, Gorka, Miller, and Bannon in tow, facing charges for crimes against humanity, but we’re not even close to making that a reality.
No, for now, the majority of folx who laughed this off or buried their heads in the sand, surrounded by any number of feel-good distractions, are going to continue running the course of the newly beheaded chicken, unsure of just what to do. They’re right where the Democrats want them, so they can regain all the lost support in their drive towards a slow descent into mediocrity. In activist communities, for people of color, for people who have been in this struggle before Heather Heyer’s death, there is a tangible and justified feeling of resentment: where was this outrage after Michael Brown? Where was this outrage after Sandra Bland’s (still) mysterious death in custody? Where was this after the cop who killed Philando walked?
That this didn’t come sooner does seem to suggest that maybe all that dash cam and body cam footage really is just entertainment, or at the very least a junkie fix of some kind, for so many of us. On the fringes, we saw a pattern. We knew what DL Hughley was talking about and knew the FBI’s statement in 2006 was something to take seriously. The deliberate silencing of these truths, though, has created a reality where entire generations of white Americans are going to have to look inside themselves and begin some heavy emotional unpacking.
We must brace ourselves for what could become a cultural battle drawn along racial lines. In the mainstream, moderate and liberal white Americans are being asked to join the fight, but to also not make it about themselves by voices of color, admittedly a lofty order to make for a people just now awakening to the inhumanities and injustices of their country, if not their own ancestors and relatives. (Also, perhaps you haven’t noticed this, but when they’re not talking about drinking or Game of Thrones, white people really like to complain.) Perhaps we are all coming together too late, the system of checks and balances having just enough loopholes to keep power out of the hands of the people. All people. Let’s hope all involved see this as a battle of oppressed versus oppressor, which has a general form in the United States but still comes in all shapes and shades, and not a showdown of tribes.
With Trump returning to his “both sides” rhetoric, calling out antifa by name, we must look to the historical forebears of similar efforts. They couldn’t stop the juggernaut in Germany. Short of an actual boots-on-the-ground invasion from a foreign entity, I don’t foresee any distraction big enough to aid the Left in their struggle against a state that is accelerating towards fascist imperialism. We are finally talking openly about the racist elephant in the room known as American nationalism.
It is up to us to redefine American nationalism so that there is no room for racism, xenophobia, queer or transphobia, religious intolerance, bigotry, or misogyny. A conversation needs to be had wherein nationalism for America means a support of liberty and justice for all, not just some. We should see the Constitution as a living, breathing document — flaws and all — and that its status as such means it is amendable to change. The document was originally written by and for white slaveowners. There is no way around that fact. However, the burden is on us to create a mandate for the Constitution to reflect the needs and values of ALL Americans.
The greatest voices of change in this country over the coming century will be voices coming from communities of color, from immigrants, and from voices that have not seen consistent or traditional representation in our media, culture, or government. As a white man, it is my duty and obligation to step aside to not just share space, but to give it. And then, it is my duty and obligation to listen and learn, and I also have a responsibility to make sure I am following orders more than I am giving them.
If we’re all still around in 30 years, may every Confederate statue be replaced by monuments for true agents of change, for the prophets, for the champions of humanity. Let’s get statues erected in celebration of Dick Gregory, Linda Sarsour (who deserves better than this smear job from the New York Times), Teressa Raiford, and Amardeep Singh. Let us memorialize all of the victims of American terrorism, from those resettled by the slave trade, the Trail of Tears, or wartime internment to those killed at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin five years ago to the countless brown folks gunned down for being brown to the many black lives that didn’t matter to the police who were pointing guns at them. This does need to go beyond statues, plaques, and nifty little sculptures. We also — and this is for whites — need to talk about reparations. White people love to sue, which means we need to be ready for the ultimate payout towards pain and suffering, and this isn’t over a cup of scalding coffee.
This is about making right all of the wrongs of America’s past. If we can’t do that, we will not move forward, the terrorists have already won, and countless brothers and sisters long before Heather Heyer will have died in vain. They deserve better, and so do we.