The Cave of Charlottesville
I have mixed thoughts about what occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. I know what I am supposed to think. I am supposed to think that racists are suddenly taking over the country, that there is a resurgence in Nazi-think, and that anything a person can do to stop it from growing should be done. I am supposed to think that punching a Nazi or physically harming any of these white nationalists is the right thing to do. I am supposed to think that to not do whatever is in my physical power to stop them is immoral; therefore, I am supposed to think that stopping the spread of Nazism is a moral duty. If I dare question this duty then this amounts to a dereliction of said duty and a betrayal of the cause of justice. As a result, my mission is clear: Go out and counter-protest and attempt to disrupt hate speech by showing the rest of the world that we (all of the USA) do not allow for such hate. By going out to counter-protest and record it, I show everyone else (my followers and friends lists) that I did my part to defend black, LGBTQ, and brown brothers/sisters and that I will stop at nothing to defend them against hate. All the while, I dare not question the fact that I am equating violent speech and violent physical force. I dare not question, what seems to be taken as a foundational truth, that threats are violence. But why can’t I question this? What would it mean to do so? I’m guessing that if I do question this then my skeptical inquiries will automatically place me in the category of a Nazi or white supremacist sympathizer, that I don’t understand what’s really going on, that I’m not woke. Would I kill baby Hitler? Well, according to my new critics, I wouldn’t have the woke fortitude (just made that up) to do so because I can’t even go out and punch a Nazi. My skepticism of this whole charade (it is, but we’ll get to that later) will cast me into the ideological shadows with the likes of any person who didn’t automatically choose a side in this hypothetical war. So with all this said, the conclusion is clear: Choose a side you skeptical asshole and we won’t regard your anomalous skepticism as choosing the side of the fascist oppressor… you’ve been warned. If I choose the right side then I keep my friends and family. I can be like everyone else. And damn, that would feel good to be like everyone else. I would love to have the mentality that automatically chose the appearance of justice, the facade of the ethical. I would love to be back in the cave and playing games with my chained fellows, discussing the shadows on the wall; after all, the sunlight of thinking is too damaging. If only I could go back to that cave: I wouldn’t have to deal with the burden of being an ideological anomaly in the political landscape, solely because I am skeptical of what’s fed to me by the news and people in power who profess to defend my well-being. Unfortunately, I can’t have that ignorant bliss. And here, we’ve arrived at the charade. All those things that you are supposed to think are not true. The world isn’t Star Wars. It isn’t about the Resistance versus the Order. Makers of content like Star Wars package life in that way to sell you tickets so that you can watch the movie, feel good, and maybe learn some themes, that is if the writers had the intention of teaching you something in the first place. But what do we do as a response to such popular content? We say, “Yeah! Resist! I’m Rey! Now take me to the Nazis. My fist needs to punch.” The news packages this for you in just the way you like. They know how to make these meals suited to your tastes. They’ve been your chefs for quite awhile. And you eat it up like it’s the only meal you’ll ever have. It’s a charade. It’s like Whose Line Is It Anyways? except it’s never your line. Dear reader, I told you what I’m supposed to think. Here’s what I think. I don’t think you should punch people unless they physically attempt to harm you. Get punched and punch. Hell, almost get punched and then punch. It’s not a hard concept. But I understand what people are going through. We’re taught that we’re so important throughout our lives and we’re taught that we can be the next person to make a difference and that it’s all up to us. For some, we’re raised that way. For others, we’re taught that our every move matters and is significant to the rest of the world. Social media platforms embolden this feature of our social lives. You matter and only you can make a difference. There is some truth in it, you can make a difference. You can match the hive-mind of the white nationalist protests with your own hive-mind of counter-protests and you can get into scuffles and you can see the tragic results ensue. Or you can take these relatively small groups of people, with their tiki torches and Nazi salutes… and let them march. Have you ever been to an unpopular protest? What I mean is, the kind of protest where no one really showed up. The May Day and immigration protests run into the hundreds of thousands. The Dakota Access Line protests maybe crack 500. After a small protest, you feel a little defeated, a little marginalized. You feel like no one reacted to you, and that you were silenced by silence. In Charlottesville, Virginia those white nationalists got more than they asked for: You reacted to them. You didn’t silence them through silence, you helped them grow. You can go to the comments section of this article and talk all the kinds of shit that you want, but at some point you must face this fact: An opportunity was there to marginalize this rather small group of white nationalists and hardly anyone took that opportunity. As much as I don’t like what they have to say, they have a right to protest and say horrible shit, but I wish there had been a more tactical response that concluded with their marginalization rather than emboldening them to have more protests, which will then incur counter-protests, which will lead to provocation, which will lead to death and injury. I’m not advocating that people don’t participate in counter-protests, I’m advocating peace in the face of verbal violence supported by free speech, I’m advocating a message that can be found in MLK’s great book, Strength to Love, where he states, “We proclaim our devotion to democracy, but we sadly practice the very opposite of the democratic creed. We talk passionately about peace, and at the same time we assiduously prepare for war. We make our fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then we tread unflinchingly the low road of injustice. This strange dichotomy, this agonizing gulf between the ought and the is, represents the tragic theme of man’s earthly pilgrimage.” I know what I’m supposed to think, but I prefer sunlight to caves.