By David Swanson
August 10, 2017
I have mixed emotions about the fact that I’ll be missing the latest big fascism rally here in Charlottesville, because I’ll be elsewhere participating in kayak trainings for an upcoming Flotilla to the Pentagon for Peace and the Environment.
I’m delighted to miss the fascism and the racism and the hatred and the gun-toting lunacy. I’m sorry to miss being here to speak against it.
I’m hopeful that there might be something resembling a disciplined nonviolent and nonhateful opposition presence, but strongly suspect that a small number of violent and hateful opponents of racism will ruin that.
I’m thrilled that taking down a racist war monument has gone mainstream. I’m depressed that, even though the legal delay in taking it down is based on its being a war monument, one side wants it down for being racist, the other side wants it up for being racist, and everybody is perfectly happy to pack the town with war monuments.
I dread the possibility of hearing that the racists again chanted “Russia is our friend!” meaning that they believe without evidence that Russia corrupted the U.S. election and they are grateful for it, but I’m hopeful that they have moved on to other bizarre chants — though my hope is minimal that anyone might chant “Russia is our friend” and mean by it that they’d like to build peace and friendship between Americans and Russians.
As I’ve written in the past, I think ignoring the racists and their rallies is wrong, and I think confronting them with a hostile shouting match is wrong. Speaking out in favor of love and sanity and understanding is right. We will again this week see some of each of those approaches. We’re also likely to see another abuse of power by a militarized police force. (Remember when Americans used to think of the police as the most prominent violent racists? When was that, about a month ago?)
The inclination to ignore the racists and hope they’ll fade away into history like trials by ordeal or dueling is strong. Judging by popular social norms and their dwindling membership, the KKK seems to be on the way out. Why give them or their suit-and-tie allies any attention that could help promote them?
Well, for one thing, violent racism is not on the way out if we’re judging by presidential elections, hate crimes, police crimes, the prison system, the choice of communities to run gas pipelines through, or many other factors. And the only way my comment on “social norms” in the previous paragraph makes any sense is if we write off the generally accepted bombing of seven dark-skinned Muslim nations as somehow non-racist.
A truly nonviolent approach toward people who believe they are taking a stand for justice as they perceive it is not a protest but an invitation. Not long ago, in Texas, a group planned an anti-Muslim protest at a mosque. A violent anti-anti-Muslim crowd showed up. The Muslims from the mosque placed themselves between the two groups, asking their would-be defenders to leave, and then inviting the anti-Muslim demonstrators to join them at a restaurant to talk things over. They did so.
I’d love to see skilled mediators and others of good will and good heart extend an invitation to the racists visiting Charlottesville to come unarmed to discuss in small groups, without cameras or audiences, what it is that divides us. Might some of them recognize the humanity of those they scapegoat if some of us recognized the injustices they’ve faced or the unfairness they perceive in affirmative action or in the acceptability of “whites” only as a topic for insults, not as a source of pride in the manner permitted all other racial and ethnic groupings?
We live in a country that has made its biggest social project war, a country that has concentrated its wealth beyond medieval levels, a country that consequently experiences incredible levels of unnecessary suffering exacerbated by awareness of its unnecessity and unfairness. Yet what we have of social supports for education, training, healthcare, childcare, transportation, and income is distributed in non-universal, divisive manners that encourage us to fight among ourselves. The KKK members who came to Charlottesville last month, and most of the racists who will show up this week, are not wealthy. They’re not living off the exploitation of workers or prisoners or pollution or war. They’ve just chosen a particularly harmful object for their blame, as compared with those who blame the Republicans or the Democrats or the media.
When they come to condemn us for seeking to remove a statue, we shouldn’t look down at them like grand generals astride monster-sized horses. We should welcome them to explain themselves.