How Hard is it to Condemn Nazis?

THIS SHOULD BE A NO BRAINER

So, after condoning Nazi violence in Charlottesville by embracing the “both sides” narrative of the right, President Trump finally did the right thing and rebuked white supremacy.

New York Times

Well, not so fast. It didn’t take long for him to break the bonds of the prescribed script and return to bigoted form when he un-rebuked Nazism the next day. This is as expected. If those on the Right are forced to be self-critical, they will find a way to drag the left down with them. It’s conservatism 101. Any criticism of the right, no matter how valid, must be matched with an equally passionate criticism of the left, no matter how absurd.

But here’s what really has my spleen tightening. One should not have to bow to pressure to unequivocally condemn Nazis, the KKK or White Nationalists.¹ Condemning Nazis should come second nature regardless of political identity or party affiliation. This should be especially true for an  American president who is supposed to be the leader of a multi-cultural, democratic society. That is, of course, assuming that our Orange Don cares about multiculturalism and democracy. But it’s clear that he, and the party he represents, disdains these attributes of our nation unless under pressure to pay the requisite lip service.

Make no mistake, however, the President isn’t alone in his equivocation. The “both sides thesis” is the choice narrative of the contemporary right. After a number of painfully mind-numbing conversations with my conservative friends as well as a disappointing survey of conservative sources, I’m shocked at the pains they are all going through to deflect from the fact that Nazis are on the march and the Left is the only group standing in their path.  There’s nothing stopping conservatives from standing shoulder to should with the left in the face of Nazism and Fascism, but they’re not. Instead, they are pointing their fingers at the resistance until the public outcry forces them to say they don’t like racism. So, unfortunately, I have to ask, “how fucking hard is it to condemn Nazis?” Is there any fruit hanging lower in political discourse than condemnation of Nazis, the KKK and white nationalists?

Instead of the condemnation that any rational observer might make, however, what we’re seeing is equivocal statements on the order of saying, “I don’t agree with the Nazis, but…” What comes after the “but” can only disqualify the statement itself. It is often some attempt to explain that the Left is just as bad with regard to the murder and violence in Charlottesville. There’s a concerted effort to blame the left wing Antifa for instigating the violence from otherwise peaceful Nazis. I mean, why would Nazis become violent if not for some left wing incitement? It’s as if we are facing two children who got into a fight in the schoolyard and the Nazi kid is saying, “well, he started it!”

The idea that the violence at Charlottesville came from “many sides”  is not just a slight from the Orange Don. It is the right wing talking point on the matter. It’s political strategy.

Toward this end, Antifa has become the boogeyman of choice for the Right. Yeah, the Right may have Nazis and violent bigots, but the left has Antifa. Consequently, the left cannot criticize the Right’s violence unless it, at the same time and in the same breath, condemns Antifa with equal passion. Because people who advocate violence against those who advocate genocide are equally culpable. I say this last sentence not to be ironic. Not too long ago I wrote a post condemning another manifestation of Antifa called “The Black Bloc.” I wrote, “The left must openly and loudly repudiate the Black Bloc, humiliate its operatives and force them and their masks into hiding. We have enough powerful enemies. The last thing we need is nihilistic allies.” I believe this to be true about Antifa as well. I don’t believe offensively violent acts are warranted at this point. I also believe that such acts distract us from effectively confronting right-wing bigotry and mendacity. It gives the Right a whipping boy.

That being said, I’m not a pacifist, either. I see the value of and admire non-violent protest. It’s often necessary to put our bodies on the line for our ideas, and, when done correctly,  can be a powerful statement against oppression and brutality. However, I don’t necessarily believe in taking a beating from Nazis. Outside of the planned messaging of a non-violent protest, I accept Malcolm X’s premise of being nonviolent with those who are nonviolent with me. Malcolm said, “I don’t think when a man is being criminally treated, that some criminal has the right to tell that man what tactics to use to get the criminal off his back. When a criminal starts misusing me, I’m going to use whatever necessary to get that criminal off my back.”

According to eyewitness testimony collected by Slate, Antifa’s violence was largely in defense of nonviolent counter-protestors in the face of Nazi aggression. Brandy Daniels, a nonviolent protestor who was among a faith group determined to stop Nazis from entering the park by linking arms and forming a barricade, described her experience with Antifa as a large group of Nazis were approaching their line:

At that point, more of the anarchists and antifa milling nearby saw the huge mob of the Nazis approach and stepped in. They were about 200-300 feet away from us and stepped between us (the clergy and faith leaders) and the Nazis. This enraged the Nazis, who indeed quickly responded violently. At this point, Sekou (Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, the leader of the counter-protest group) made a call that it was unsafe—it had gotten very violent very fast—and told us to disperse quickly.

Based on what was happening all around, the looks on their faces, the sheer number of them, and the weapons they were wielding, my hypothesis or theory is that had the antifa not stepped in, those of us standing on the steps would definitely have been injured, very likely gravely so.

From what I’ve been able to glean from eyewitness reports, many fights broke out in pockets throughout the protest. Is it likely that left-wing individuals² may have started or even “instigated” some of those fights? Sure. Both sides were certainly prepped for violence, some armed, carrying shields, and helmets, clubs and tear gas. Most of the videos I’ve seen are hard to interpret. Those videos in which it seemed one side started the conflict may not have shown antecedent behavior. The bottom line is that any Right wing source that definitively blames the left for the violence is just baseless.

It’s impossible to know the relative culpability of either party in the violence. That’s clear. However, we do know two things definitively.

First, we know what each participating group stands. The Right who gathered under the Swastika and the pro-slavery battle flag³ believe that the white race should forcibly expel and/or exterminate groups they believe to be inferior. Furthermore, we know that when these right wing groups have enough power, they pursue this very policy. From the Colfax Massacre in Louisiana in 1873 to the Holocaust the history is undeniable. This is the kind of America that the Nazis are advocating. They announced that they are working for the kind of bigoted, bloody society that Allied soldiers used extensive violence to defeat. Remember, we refer to those who used extreme violence against Nazis in the 1940’s as The Greatest Generation. The Right might blather about Nazi rights to free speech and peaceful assembly, but one must wonder, is it possible to peacefully assemble in support of genocide?

The counter-protestors were divided into two groups. On the one hand were the majority, representing every point on the political spectrum to the left of right wing lunacy. Many were centrists and moderate liberals. Some were further to the left, socialists, communists and anarchists. Most were intent on peaceful protest, knowing full well that they were likely to get hurt facing the Nazis and the Klan. Others were less willing to take a beating, and arguably more willing to give one in defense of equality and justice.

Agree or disagree with the means embraced by those who converged on beautiful Charlottesville, the divergent ends of each was clear. On one side were those defending American values, liberty, equality and justice for everyone. The other was intent on tearing down those values and bringing the same irredeemable shame to our nation that slavery brought to the United States, that the Klan brought to the American South, that Hitler brought to Germany.

Heather Hayer died in Charlottesville, fighting for us all.

The next thing we know is that at least one member of this right-wing hive of lunacy took it upon himself to use his car as a weapon, mowing down those standing up for the values we hold dear, ultimately killing one of our dedicated sisters. They mowed her down just as they wish to crush everyone who is not like them. And they are non-repentant about it.

Based on what we know about this struggle for the values of our nation and the dignity of humanity, the only question left to ask is, what side are you on? Do you stand for liberty, justice, and equality for all, or do you stand for bigotry, hatred, and oppression? Do you believe in the primacy of reason, or are you cowed by irrational fear of the other? This is a question as old as history. This is a question for which there is no equivocation, no caveats. You are either on the right side of history, or you are not. We know what side Trump and his supporters are on. What about you?

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  1. I’m among the number that refuses to use the term “Alt Right“. This is especially true with regard to the response to the events that happened in Charlottesville. Conservative response to the so-called Alt Right makes clear that there is no “Alt”. It’s just the Right.
  2. Let’s be clear. Not all of the counter-protesters were left wing, let alone members of the nebulous Antifa. You don’t have to be left wing to protest Nazis.
  3. If nothing else, the incident in Charlottesville should put to rest the argument that the Confederate Battle Flag is a symbol of “heritage” or “cultural pride.” When you fly your flag next to the swastika, your flag is a symbol of bigotry and hatred. Period. Don’t like that proposition, take your Confederate flag and openly condemn Nazis.

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