During one more in a long line of racist clashes in the United States, one protester was murdered and at least nineteen others injured after a Neo-Nazi from Idaho attended the “Unite the Right” rally at Charlottesville, VA, and proceeded to drive his car into the crowd.
A running theme with white nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and other hate groups is they’ve tried repeatedly to avoid the name they’ve earned for themselves while still trying to perpetrate all of the moral and criminal wrongs historically associated with their movements. To varying degrees, they will advocate fervently in public spaces for the advancement of racism, social segregation, racist propaganda, hate speech, acts of violence, and even murder, but if recent news coverage is any indication, many seem unable to stomach the idea of getting caught or called out for their disgusting behaviour.
This, in and of itself, speaks volumes.
Remember — if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, then racist apologists be damned, it’s a fuckin’ duck.
American politicians aren’t doing the world a favour when they fail to name and shame the evil in our midst, or when they fail to provide a timely and sufficiently measured institutional response to a Neo-Nazi rally where people were being attacked, injured and killed.
When those in power equivocate and push false equivalencies by implying “all sides” share responsibility in a situation where only one side had designed, provoked, and initiated a racist disturbance, this not only validates the hate groups and leaves them feeling emboldened by the exchange, it also invalidates everyone who’s been working hard for the causes of pluralism and social equality.
US federal authorities were happy to name, shame, blame, and cast doubt on movements like the DAPL Water Protectors and Black Lives Matter over environmental and civil rights issues, and at the time were not hesitant in the least to meet protesters with an overwhelming show of force, at all levels and on all fronts, by local and state police.
But a Nazi rally where people are being attacked and killed … surely they’d do something serious about that, right?
The video below shows two prominent captures from the confrontation with police in Charlottesville, the first showing rally attendees using physical force against police and the second showing them stealing a police barricade:
By all accounts, the comparatively weak police response may have allowed this nonsense to drag on for far longer than it ought to have lasted.
This is not the first time authorities have met white supremacist forces with an underwhelming response, trying to brush events away as a rare, lone-wolf, or fringe occurrence rather than the organized, orchestrated, clear and present danger it actually is.
The fact President Trump then took two days to respond, using words not his own and not written by him, delivered in a speech that was more unemotional than Mr. Spock, should signal there’s a serious problem here.
But it gets worse: Trump has since walked back his condemnation by excusing the acts of the racists with such ridiculous lines as, “You still don’t know the facts.”
The facts are these, Mr. Trump: complacency and inadequate response on the part of an entire society, coupled with political maneuvering, intimidation, and violence from a populist minority bent on pressing a hate-driven agenda, was the path the original Nazi Party rode to power in Germany during the 20th century. Even today, that country still faces the echoes of Hitler’s ugly legacy and is forced to grapple with its danger on a regular basis. If you’re incapable of recognizing or appreciating that, then you’re unfit to lead.
Hitler never had a majority, either: he simply accumulated enough followers willing to commit acts of deception, manipulation, and violence to further the party’s agenda. If we fail to learn from that lesson, and more specifically if we fail to address the issue of racism and its surges in the US, we have only ourselves to blame when the bottom finally drops out and the violence begins to further metastasize from street-level clashes to entire government institutions, the workings of the democratic process, and the rule of law itself.
It’s a lesson that’s been burned many times into the pages of history, and in particular it’s a lesson citizens and government should have learned long ago from the horrors of the American Revolution. The more people continue to blur lines and ignore crucial details, the more people continue to re-brand historical evils as solutions to economic or social problems, the more insidious the damage.
Over the past five years, the state of race and civil rights relations in the US has become a strong warning shot across the bow, signalling to many that America has hit an ominous milestone in terms of its cultural direction, if not a potential tipping point. Events are coming that will test the character, resolve, and conscience of government and citizenry alike.
Hate groups are planning many more recruitment efforts and rallies in the months ahead, some of which stand a good chance of becoming high-profile international news events later on.
What will you do when the Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, alt-right, and far-right nationalists attempt to export this poison to even more cities? Will you accept a “hands-off” approach there, too?
In the long run, the current situation might be the last real opportunity to kick the racists out of power before things reach a point of no return after which we’re forced to accept the chaos that comes.
If the US can not be taken back from the hatemongers now, then the situation is ripe for a racist populist movement to take over with a demagogue even worse than Trump eventually being elected to office, and from there it only becomes increasingly difficult to dislodge such a movement before it does immeasurable harm.
Just as Hitler didn’t enter power under a popular majority; neither did the current infiltration of US politics by a small number of racist individuals and their accompanying ties to pro-hate organizations.
All it took was enough people to sit back, not call a duck a duck, and not get in the way.