“Holy crap! The Nazis are back! What are we gonna do?”—Freaked Out Phil
No one said being an American was going to be easy. Unless you’re white and rich. What happened in Charlottesville this weekend was unspeakably ugly and maybe should not have been so surprising. If you blow enough dog whistles for long enough, sooner or later, some packs of dogs are going to show up. Nazi dogs. KKK dogs. White supremacist dogs. Very, very bad dogs. Dogs that should not be given bacon treats.
In its latest Faustian deal for power, the Republican party has hitched its rainbow to the ugliest sewer of hateful bullshit yet. We used to fight wars against Nazis, not count on them as our political base. I’m glad my Nazi-fighting grandparents are not around to witness their current reign of hateful tiki-torch terror. (Although my grandmother loved to watch Fox News while she was alive; maybe she’d be ready for the massive irony sandwich we’re all eating.) Russia and neo-Nazis helped get a Republican elected President of America. This is not an episode of “The Man in the High Castle.”
Racists everywhere seem suddenly empowered to walk around with their little Hitler haircuts and spew whatever kind of hateful garbage they want. In Germany, it’s illegal to deny the Holocaust. Do we want the government to tell us we can’t say racist, horrible, Nazi-loving stuff? No. Horrible people should be able to voice their opinions in public. They should be able to assemble in peace. Preferably not with cheap Walmart tiki torches. And people with better opinions should be able to shout them the hell down. Freedom of speech is about volume and endurance. Be louder, yell longer. And confront them to the ends of the Earth.
The Internet is the problem, naturally. You can live in whatever bubble you want. Filled with any kind of sulfur. And the internet will give you the sense that everyone in your bubble agrees with you. This is dangerous, because then suddenly you’re carrying a tiki torch and trying to save a Robert E. Lee statue in a town you’ve never even been to. Robert E. Lee was a loser. Many Civil War historians believe he blew the war. He could have gone for the tie. That would have been good enough to save the Confederate States. The North would have given up after a while. So I’m not sure why they have statues to a losing general. Does the University of Michigan have a statue of Chris Webber calling a timeout? No. No one should build statues for losers. General Lee statues are participation trophies. They are safe spaces to sniff sniff sniffle about how you woulda coulda and shoulda won the Civil War. There won’t be another one.
What is it with Southern racists and the Confederacy? You’re not going to make it happen again. No matter how many white guys with white polo shirts you can get together. There are way more of us than there are of you. You may be having a bright shining moment after having having crawled from under your collective rocks, but it is fading. Faster now that the whole world saw what you guys do for fun this past weekend. We’ll be melting down General Lee’s statues and turning them into Safe Space Snowflake Zones with statues of Black Lesbians making out. Congratulations. You played yourselves.
And as amusing as all this “Punching Nazis” stuff is, it’s impossible to punch every racist and hatemonger in this country. The math is against you. They don’t need to be punched, they just need to be relentlessly messed with. Punch them in the wallet. Punch them in the brains. Punch them in their frail white male egos. That’s their mayonnaise-colored kryptonite. Even if the moral universe does not magically bend toward justice, it will bend there under the weight of all agitators. People fighting for their rights and the rights of others.
Nazism, the KKK and white supremacy are not on the rise; they’re just more out in the open. They’ve seen clear signals that it’s OK to come out from under the rocks. But truly, it is death-panging. Ending with a bang and a whimper. If you think this is annoying and terrifying for our country, just wait until that new version of Stephen King’s “It” comes out in a few weeks. We’ll be knee-deep in creepy clowns once again this Fall.
Jim Behrle lives in Jersey City, NJ and works at a bookstore.
Image: Mark Dixon via Flickr