The Alt-Right’s Young Men of Means

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

by Reed Galen

Last weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia still reverberate around the country. The white, nationalist, Nazi-inspired marchers invaded the idyllic college town and brought the fury of racial hatred and poisonous ideology with them. Watching myriad news reports it’s clear these were young men of some means. Many wore white polo shirts and khaki pants with an assortment of gloves, helmets and other quasi-tough guy accoutrements to round out their look. Some came as far as the west coast to protest the removal of a statute of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and turned Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park into a bloody, deadly melee in the process. These were not disassociated folks from the hollow. These young men fighting were fighting abhorrent ideology from the pedestal of the middle class.

How is it that these guys, who presumably did not miss a meal as children, came to be the face of virulent racism in America?

Perhaps we can say, as sociologists do, that they are the product of the radically changing demographic and economic makeup of the United States. Perhaps they feel disenfranchised because the images they see on television and the songs they hear on the radio don’t jibe with their worldview. Or maybe they’re just a bunch of dilettantes who, in the absence of healthy relationships, found one another and in the absence of any apparent innate talent or self-esteem, chose to glorify their skin-tone as evidence of their superiority.

Casual racism is easy to find. It’s everywhere, all the time. Racism doesn’t stop at the Mason-Dixon line. The young man who drove his Dodge Challenger (sticker price $26,000) into a crowd and killed an innocent woman was from Ohio. Another, who’s become the face of the protest, his face a twisted mask of rage (photo above), hails from Reno, Nevada. He was curious enough to find out about the march, motivated enough to fly 2,500 miles to join it, and inflamed enough to light his Tiki torch and scream racist epithets. What likely began as making jokes at the expense of others in the privacy of a dorm room exploded into our national consciousness this weekend.

Do the problems begin at home? Are their parents aware of their beliefs? Do they engender them? If their families don’t pay sufficient attention, they may be left to navigate the cesspool of race-baiting easily found on social media. Even if their families are involved, once they leave home Reddit, 4chan, Facebook or Twitter provide plenty of outlets for both the purveyors and the consumers of such vitriol. Their values were severely compromised somewhere along the line. Organizers of previous protests see protests on college campuses as “recruiting drives.” What are they seeing that the rest of us aren’t?

The Nazi and Hitler fetishes are both disturbing and confusing. Perhaps the continuum of history has clouded the minds of these young men to just how evil and destructive the Nazi regime was to its own people, those slaughtered in the Holocaust, and those lost on battlefields from the English Channel to the Russian steppes. It could be that they’re enamored with Hitler because they see another lay-about with delusions of grandeur, who unfortunately made good on his psychopathic and ideological perversions.

We’re not adequately instilling the horrors of World War Two or the Civil War in our students. Every high school freshman in America should sit and watch Schindler’s List or Glory. Better that they be uncomfortable then, than become ignorant monsters later.

The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts.

The strength of the KKK and Neo-Nazi movements has ebbed and flowed over the decades. After a long hibernation, these racist cicadas have resurfaced in American society, culture and politics. They’re emboldened by a never-ending feedback loop of conspiracy theories and ideologues who reinforce the idea that someone else is always to blame, the Christian white nation is the pinnacle of human endeavor and those with whom they look down upon are inhuman.

These lost boys have stepped inside their self-made cocoons of hatred and resentment: The events in Charlottesville are the result of their metamorphosis and maturation from oddballs on campus to arachnids who carry torches and wield heavy weapons to instill fear in their opponents while cloaking their own self-doubt and weakness.

President Donald Trump has come under intense pressure, scrutiny and accusation for being forgiving of the alt-right and afraid to ostracize them with full-throated denunciations. It’s difficult to categorize the president on any ideological scale because he doesn’t live or operate anywhere on the left/right continuum we’ve come to associate with American politics.

That he was unwilling on Saturday to be more forceful, and seemed annoyed on Monday to bad mouth the KKK is troubling, precisely because it lets the paunchy racist kid of some means look at himself in the mirror and say, “See, even the president thinks I’m right.” What happened in Charlottesville may not be Mr. Trump’s fault, but his actions and reactions certainly didn’t put the alt-right on notice that they’re persona non-grata.

There are far more more young, white American men that are disgusted by what happened in Charlottesville than those who picked up their torches and clubs to incite a riot. They, and all of us who have the ability to speak out against this type of behavior, must do so. It is cliche to say that those who standby and let terrible things happen are complicit, but they are, and we are. All of us, left, right and center must continually be on guard against the kind of complacency that will allow this weekend to become not the exception, but the rule in American political discourse.

Copyright 2017. Jedburghs, LLC.

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