I generally keep my post topics focused on writing, book reviews, or personal things. Occasionally I foray into politics, and I make no bones about the fact that I’m a liberal. But, after many days of reflection, I feel like so many there are things I need to say about the events in Charlottesville this past weekend.
The roots of Charlottesville did not begin with the decision in the past few weeks and months to remove some of these confederate monuments. Nor did it begin during the 2016 Presidential campaign that culminated in the election of Trump. These roots are much deeper, much more pernicious, stretching back 150 years to the end of the Civil War. There is a cancer in our society that has existed since the south surrendered at Appomattox. The north won the war, but it was the south that won the peace.
Instead of imprisoning or executing the perpetrators of the Civil war, we allowed them to return to their homes peacefully. I suppose the thinking was that a generous nature would help begin the healing process for everyone. The problem is that former Senators and Congressmen who had joined the confederacy in support of slavery then returned to Washington and immediately began a campaign of passing laws that would disenfranchise blacks from the rights earned by the blood of many.
At the same time, former officers of the confederate army formed the KKK to strike fear and terror into the black population and attempt to overthrow Republican governors at the state level. While they had some small success, this initial wave of the KKK movement was eventually suppressed and put down, but other groups sprang up in the void, and they were eventually successfully at taking back control of state governments in the south. They waxed and waned over their years, but that their peak, the KKK had as many as 4 to 5 MILLION men joining their ranks. Through the sixties they often worked hand in hand with local police departments and governments. The Klan was everywhere, and people died at the hands of the Klan.
Think about that. A group that has existed for 150 years, created expressly for terrorism purposes, living freely among us. Certainly at times Klan members have been arrested for crimes. Yet compare the treatment of the Klan with the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers were all but dismantled after existing for about a decade, taken out by law enforcement, some of the leaders straight assassinated in their sleep. The Klan promoted violent, often engaged in robberies, attempts to blow up government structures or public facilities, murders, lynchings, rapes, and still, today, exist, though their numbers may only be around six or seven thousand nationwide.
Not long after the war ended, they began raising monuments to Confederate war heroes. Not a lot. A scattering. It wasn’t until the KKK really rose to power in the early 20th century that they went on a binge of statue raising as a “fuck you” to minorities, a reminder that “we’re still in charge.” Compare this with Europe after WWII. Europe isn’t raising monuments to Himler and Goebbels, Nazi tank drivers and pilots, Hitler himself. Why should we celebrate the traitors of the south, the white supremacists who fought to keep a people enslaved and in servitude in perpetuity? They worked to change the story, too, turning Robert E. Lee – a brilliant commander, but one mean slave owner who treated his property like dirt – into a glorious hero, a persecuted and misunderstood commander who only fought to save his Virginia from the aggression of the north… even though Lincoln had made it clear he didn’t intend to end slavery, and it was the Confederacy that fired the first shots and declared war on the North.
In the 1940’s we went overseas to fight the Nazis, a group even more white supremacist than the KKK. The Nazis killed tens of millions, devastated the better part of Europe for decades, and changed our world in no small number of ways. Yet knowing that, there are still thousands of folks involved with the Nazis in the United States, goose stepping and “seig heil!” yelling people who call for the utter destruction of other folks based on their concepts of racial and religious purity. There are less Nazis than KKK, but I suspect there’s a lot of overlap between the groups. The Nazis, too, like to terrorize folks.
Two groups with roughly 225 years of combined murdering terrorism, both of whom still openly exist and claim their free speech rights to spew hate, sew fear, and hide their intent to drive off and/or murder everyone else not considered acceptable to them.
Antifa in the United States has been around for a very short time. Groups seemed to spring up here in the 1980’s, originally giving themselves other names, but with the same expressed intent to fight the neo-fascists they encountered. That seems to be the majority of what these scattered, uncentralized groups do: protest and/or violently attack fascism when it presents itself. As far as I can tell, they’ve never murdered anyone, nor do they discriminate against folks, but instead stand up for diversity and minorities in the face of ideologues who wish to destroy them.
150 years of terrorism and murder… versus 30 years of property damage in the name of fighting terrorism and murder. And yet our president now equates these things, and says there were “many good people there on both sides.” On the side of white supremacy? This is a false equivalency. Sure, we can agree that Antifa’s violence is bad. But I can’t agree that it comes close to the vileness of the white supremacist groups in this country and what they’ve wrought upon our society. It’s like saying a kid who steals a candy bar from a store is as bad as a bank robber who killed twenty hostages. And it devalues the alt-right who have numerous times made it clear they will engage in violence, who show up to “peaceful” protests heavily armed. In the face of that, I think ALL counter protestors should show up armed as well… and we know where that will lead. Violence begets violence in an endless cycle.
No, these things are not equal. I may not agree with Antifa’s use of violent tactics, but if the police and FBI aren’t going to dismantle the terror group that is the KKK in this country, then I won’t condemn them either.
This is how they do it. They set up a system full of violence and disenfranchisement of minorities, terrorize people into responding, and then go after the responders as if they are fully equal and fully responsible for the problems. They claim their free speech rights, then get violent – or try to induce violence – when folks stand up against them. All so they can play victim. “I’m not free to say what I want!” Sure you are, sparky. We’re free to tell you that you’re a dick, too. Tough, suck it up, buttercup.
We on the left have been saying for years that the right is quietly blowing a dog whistle of racism and prejudice. It was subtle enough for a long time that they could get away with it. The Willie Horton stories were the most obvious examples, but there were plenty if folks wanted to look closely enough, think through the logic. Folks don’t, and so nothing changed. Trump has finally woken everyone up to the racism that still permeates our society. His first comments – that both sides were equally wrong – were tone deaf. Under duress, he followed that up with a denouncement of white supremacists, but it was obvious he wasn’t happy he had to do it, he felt forced to say something. The real him – the true Donnie – was that first statement, and his third one, where he claimed there were “good people” on the side of racism and bigotry, that both sides were once more “equally wrong.” No, Donnie, just… no. I know you’re a racist, Donnie. It’s been obvious since you blocked minorities from your government housing projects in the 1970’s, a decision which the government took you to court for (twice) and won (twice). Yeah, you settled… admitting you were caught. It happened again in the 1990’s when a lawsuit was filed regarding your treatment of blacks at your Casinos, and once more you settled and admitted you were a racist.
Our president is giving aide and comfort to enemies we defeated 150 years ago. He is continuing our long, rich history of white washing our past, letting racist elements have their say in our country, while attacking and villifying anyone who stands up to them. You may not agree with me, but hate speech is incitement to me. Calling for the destruction of a group of people “broadly” is currently protected in our nation, but it shouldn’t be, it’s a threat, clear and present. If you are a member of that group, you are now being told you are going to die. How is that any different than ISIS threatening us? Would we be so tolerant if ISIS members marched down our streets yelling “Allah Akbah!” and waving flags calling for the destruction of America, the beheading of all Americans? You damn well know the right would be up in arms to oppose them.
Time for us to be up in arms to oppose those who support 150 years of unremitting terrorism in our country. Take up arms, defend yourself. Because the car may be aimed at you next, and you need to be prepared. These people have no moral core, no compassion for anyone not like them, or who doesn’t agree with them. The Civil War isn’t over yet, but let’s make sure that, in the end, diversity is the winning side. Because I don’t want to be a member of the country where my skin color is the only determining factor of my worth.