Well, time to write again.
Charlottesville has come and gone, but the ramifications are here to stay. We’re officially a country in turmoil, to the point that even the most stiff-lipped arbiters of civility politics and both-sidesism have all but crumbled under the crushing, objective evidence that right wing extremism has had a death grip on the United States for decades if not centuries, and that milquetoast centrism is no longer a viable defense.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped some presumably well-intentioned media wonks from blubbering in the public sphere about the breakdown of institutional values, as though such things have any worth in the present, brought to you as it is by middle-of-the-road handwringing and right-wing appeasement.
Full-throated and strident opposition to right-wing conservatism is the only thing that will save this country, and that’s never been more apparent than now. That means supporting a $15 minimum wage, for starters. That means safe, legal, affordable access to abortion, in all 50 states. That means absolute, unwavering rejection of any sort of bigotry, and those that associate with it.
And yet, in these troubled times, centrists and right-wingers alike love to cluck their tongues and wag their fingers at the so-called alt-left, also known as anti-fascists, also known as the only people who are literally bleeding and dying to insure that nazis do not walk care-free down the streets of America.
There’s a lot of misunderstanding of what the term “anti-fascist” means, as it’s a blanket term for–drum roll–somebody opposed to fascism. This term could be applied to literally anybody who thinks any rhetoric or action that supports oppression needs to be met head-on with direct action.
And this is where we tend to lose the centrists, the progressives, the establishment democrats, and everybody else who has been told since kindergarten that “violence never solves everything.” There is an understandable squeamishness surrounding force and violence, or direct action of any kind, outside the purview of the law.
But once again, how can we place 100% of our faith in our institutions when they have failed to protect us from Donald Trump, from a resurgence of nazism, from right-wing murder squads that employ tactics similar to those used by ISIS in their own terrorist attacks? When it is blind faith in institutional authority that landed us in this predicament in the first place, why should we be surprised that people are acting outside the purview of institutional authority?
And more to the point, why should we be surprised that folks are turning to direct action when the results are plain to see?
The organizer of the hate rally in Charlottesville was driven from the podium of his own press conference, not by politely worded questions from members of the press, but by rightfully enraged citizens who rushed the stage, screamed “indict for murder now” into his microphone, and chased him through the surrounding gardens until the police rushed him to safety, a luxury that was not afforded to the victims of right-wing vehicular homicide, or anybody else standing up against fascism in Virginia that weekend, depending on which accounts you believe (I tend to believe the accounts told by people who were there and aren’t nazis, but that’s just me.)
Numerous other bad actors in the travesty in Virginia have expressed fear, blubbering on the Internet about the just repercussions their vile and murderous rhetoric was met with. Whining on YouTube that they got maced, punched, or even just that people have been mean to them on Twitter.
What else should they–or anybody else–fairly expect? That open espousal of ideologies routed in genocide would be greeted as a concept worth engaging with on any terms other than swift and immediate opposition, by any means necessary? Are we so addicted to the lie, rooted in hundreds of years of propaganda, that our institutions will save us, that we actually think violence perpetrated against nazis isa anything but justice? Has the whole world gone mad?
The pearl-clutching moralists of civility politics seem to actually have taken the “violence never solved anything” platitude with them well into adulthood, swallowing whole the myth of a fairytale civilization that does not shore up all of its institutional values with the direct or implicit threat of violence. To hew dangerously close to the kind of “classical” thinking that the Alt-Right loves to get itself moist over, the very concept of a nation of laws, or the concept of law itself rests upon the collective knowledge that an inability to follow rules and regulations will be met with swift and violent action by the state, in the form of police, judges, prisons, etc. If you steal or murder, you will be seized by the state, confined in a cell, and possibly executed. For some reason, these ideas do not scandalize the champions of civility politics nearly as much as somebody pulling down a statue of Jefferson Davis or punching a nazi in the face.
Great strides have been made in this country and around the world through non-violent action, it’s true. However, those who would invoke the name of Martin Luther King should do well to remember how integration actually played out. The racists–institutional authority worshippers all until it turned against them–did not simply say “well, the law’s the law” and turn heel and go home. Bussing was marred by riots so severe that the national guard had to be deployed so teenagers could go to school. What is this if not violence accomplishing something?
There’s plenty of room for debate as to how politically useful direct, anti-facist violent confrontations are, but everybody quaking in their boots because they can’t accept reality–a bunch of kids with some rope got more done in a few hours than our entire democratic system got done since the civil war–needs to face the facts. To paraphrase John Steinbeck, when the majority of the people are ignored by the powerful, they will take by force what they need.