Civility in the Face of Fascism
I started this piece back in August 2017 after the White Supremacist rally/riot and subsequent protesting in Charlottesville, Virginia. Like many of my friends and colleagues, I was stunned by the event, and that it had taken place so openly in our country. I was angry and afraid, not just as a disabled, Jewish-identifying, politically dissident woman, but also as a human being. I cried as I watched the footage live-streamed on the internet. Rage boiled up within me. And I fully expected my entire community, despite some unfortunate voting decisions the year prior, to stand up and say "WHAT THE FUCK?! THERE ARE FUCKING NAZIS IN OUR COUNTRY! NOT ON MY WATCH, ASSHOLES!"
What happened instead knocked the wind out of me far more than the "Unite The Right" rally itself: many, many of my friends and family said "well... freedom of speech, though. And they're not really Nazis. Don't be hateful towards the people literally chanting for your eradication. Don't advocate violence towards Nazis, because then you're no better than they are. They just really love their country, their heritage. Don't worry about their salutes and armbands and chants, just focus on the fact that all they really want is to keep a statue."
People gathered to protest the literal Nazi riot, and one of the White Supremacists drove a car into the crowd, murdering a young woman who was peacefully assembling to stand against hate. But "there were good people on both sides. You have to see things from their perspective, walk a mile in their shoes. Don't judge!" More Neo-Nazi rallies happened, and groups came together to say "HELL NO" and were labeled terrorists for it. People made excuses for the fascists, newspapers ran articles about how they were just normal people like everyone else. It was one of the most stunning things I've ever seen. Not in a good way. I spoke out very loudly against the Nazi resurgence, and was told by multiple individuals to quiet down because it might hurt my businesses. I have never been so angry as to think that people would abide Nazi's in order to potentially not lose money. But we do live in a hell of a M*GA Capitalistic society, so I suppose I don't know what I was expecting...
Eventually, the Nazi-dome calmed down a bit. There weren't swastika-clad rallies every weekend anymore, and papers like the New York Times (NYT) moved into a quieter fascist kowtowing. People are more openly racists, sexist, ableist, and generally hateful, but aren't saluting and chanting about eliminating Jews in public as much. It's still not good, not by a long shot, but at least people no longer tell me how brave I am for wearing my Star of David in public.
We've had mass shootings and immigration issues and the attempted evisceration of the ADA, military strikes and really fucking stupid political decisions, which when faced with any "we should perhaps do something about this" are answered with cliche fascist quips and barks of "If you don't like it, get out!" When people try to stand up for what's right, we are accused of being violent. When we protest non-violently, we are called "whiny" and "snowflakes" and told that that won't do either. "Don't punch Nazis!" but also "Don't kneel. Don't gather. Don't refuse service." If we can neither aggressively (not ideal, but sometimes necessary) or nonviolently take a stand, the only other option is to bow down and give up. And I don't know about you, but I'd rather die on my feet than give in to fascists.
Coming from the South, a lot of my family and acquaintances are more right-leaning. I'm used to very aggressively right-wing nonsense. I've dealt with KKK bullshit before. I've been threatened by Nazi's more than once. I've had threats made against me because of speculations about my sexuality. I've had (mainly old white male) people scream at me that I deserve to be disabled for being liberal, a feminist, a "socialist." I'm unfortunately used to dealing with extremism. But what I was not prepared for is this super sneaky, subversive, often pseudo-spiritual/enlightened bullshit called "centerism." The idea that, "well, we're all doing our best here, and you just have to see things from both sides, and who are we to judge anyhow? Let's just stay calm and talk it out." And hey, I'm all for talking stuff out. Ask anyone in my life; as much of an introvert as I am, I am a communicator. I will talk things out 'til everyone is blue in the face. But at some point, my dears, the talking has to stop. There is a special place in hell for people who sip tea and chat about common ground in the face of children being stolen and caged and sold. When Nazi's are marching the streets calling for the eradication of people of color, Jews, disabled people, LGBT folk. When our school children are being mowed down in their classrooms. When the wealthiest of individuals are profiting from the pain and suffering and death of everyone else.
I know it seems super enlightened and progressive and forward thinking to say "hey, don't judge," or "there are two sides to every story," or "let's just be civil," but the truth is, not only is it not those things, but is, in fact, equally as dangerous and harmful and toxic as fascism itself. Calling for others to not take action in the face of evil is, itself, evil. Trying to gaslight and tone-police people into calming down is super abusive. Calling for civility in the face of white supremacists calling for genocide, in the face of mass shootings in schools and churches and clubs, in the face of police shootings of POC and PWD that aren't held to account, in the face of an administration that is stealing children, in the face of a society that is boldly saying "not all people are worthy to be alive" is not only absurdly naive, but heartless, catastrophically damaging and ego-centric, narcissistic, cowardly wickedness.
I know that sounds harsh, but... y'know what? I stand by it. Absolutely and unshakably. If you choose to stand in your privilege, put your fingers in your ears, and shout "CIVILITY" into the hurricane of massive human rights violations, you are part of the problem. As the kids say, "sorry not sorry."
I want to talk about something that I've heard about 10 times in the past week. That is, "everyone is just doing their best" often followed with "so have compassion/understanding/empathy/cut them some slack." And to that, all I have to say is "no." If your best is being a Nazi, your best isn't good enough. It just isn't. If your best is saying "well... don't judge" when children are being ripped from their parents, records lost forever, families destroyed, your best isn't good enough. If your best is saying "let's be civil" in the face of a government who mocks its minorities, advocates for violence, and actively works to metaphorically rape (or "grab 'em by the pussy" if you prefer) its citizens to line the pockets of those in power, THEN YOUR BEST ISN'T GOOD ENOUGH.
But, what else can you expect, aside from doing their best? You can fully expect people to LISTEN, LEARN, AND DO BETTER. That's life, bro! Life is a constant state of evolution, learning, growing. If you're just digging your heels in wherever you're comfortable, shrugging your shoulders and saying "idk, I am/they are doing their best" then actually, you're not. You're being lazy, cowardly, and weak, and people are dying because of it.
I don't know how to be clearer about this... holding on to heritage just isn't more important than equality and human rights in the now. Being "nice" does not make you a better person than those putting their foot down and saying "no more" (also, here's a thing on my thoughts "being nice"). Writing sympathy pieces about Nazis (I'm looking at you, NYT, you fucking fascist rag) does not make you balanced and grounded. Putting your religious beliefs and opinions above other's civil rights, safety, health, and wellbeing does not make you a Holy or Godly person. Saying things like "don't judge" and "there are two sides to every issue" doesn't make you enlightened, a good Buddhist or Christian, or a good anything, really. It makes you a sympathizer, plain and simple.
Well, this has been one of my more accusatory and yell-y political pieces. I usually try to steer away from talking about politics with a broad brush and rather address individual issues and, I guess I've sort of done that here, but y'all... we are living in a time of some MASSIVE fucking human rights issues. Look at how we are treating our own people, even (not to mention how we handle the rest of the world).
Immigration Issues (oh, btw, let's abolish ICE, because fuck that!).
People of Colour.
I could go on.
Our government is putting people in "not concentration camps" as we speak. If this is not the time to step up and say "um, excuse me, but FUCK NO!" then I don't know when is. This is not a time for politeness and patting ourselves on the back for our good etiquette, it's a time for action. You don't have to be a dick in your action, but if you stand by and say "well actually... civility," then you are, as they say, on the wrong side of history.