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Both Sides?

Posted by Michael Lyman on

I just read a tweet, by “Werner Twertzog,” an homage Twitter page to German film maker and actor Werner Herzog that shocked me into seeing the current state of race relations in a way I had yet to view them.

It reads, “Dear America: You are waking up, as Germany once did, to the awareness that 1/3 of your people would kill another 1/3, while 1/3 watches.”

I like to think that I’ve been keenly aware of race relations in this country, sometimes good but often bad, and the institutional racism that has continued to exist up to the present day, made evermore visible with the advent of “social” (often political) media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. But up until now, Charlottesville serving as the tinder, for many it seems binary; those stuck in old racist tendencies and those who would like us all to “just get along.” 

Of course, nothing is black and white (pardon the pun). There are mini factions within each group, spectrums that range from the casual prejudiced to the KKK on the one hand, and from Facebook warriors to “Antifa” (whatever that is) activists and marchers on the other. But they can fairly easily be seen in two, distinct camps; racist or antiracist.

President Donald Trump has eluded to this in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville that cost three lives, including Heather Heyer who was brutally run down by a moving vehicle piloted by a neo-nazi activist. He claimed, in the first of many now baffling speeches touching on the subject, that there were bad people “on both sides,” using once the term “on all sides.” The binary exists to most because of the self-identification we use to define where we fit in this argument.

But as our esteemed tweeter reminds us, there is a third category. Trump is making it easier and easier to out yourself as fascist or racist or even an admirer of a confederacy that lasted only five bloody years. The “Antifa” (which personally I don’t think exists and by naming a group of people based on the fact that they are fighting for, you know, common decency and fair behavior, civil rights and inclusion, the right including Trump attempt to demonize this group and give it a face and name to burn in effigy) are mobilizing more than at any time since, or even more than, the civil rights protesters of the 1960s, due in large part to the hateful rhetoric espoused by our president and his newly emboldened ilk.

This leaves the third group; those that don’t care, don’t want to know, hide their heads in the sand, or worse, keep viewing this harrowing era like entertainment while maintaining a strict adherence to their policy of not talking about it. 

Nazi parallels are passé. Memes on Facebook abounded with images of George W. likened to Hitler, and Obama was dragged through that same mud, perhaps even further. Trump, however, I shall not grant a pass.

I cannot grant a pass to a man who willingly, without even really trying to hide it, uses the fascist dictator playbook:

  • Grandiose speaking events; he’s already campaigning again instead of governing.
  • Threats of violence to opposition; he literally told his supporters to beat someone up at a rally and offered to pay the legal fees.
  • Political cover for allies; he is already eluding to the fact that he plans to pardon Sherriff Joe Arpaio.
  • Political retribution or removal of enemies and dissidents; Comey, for starters, and the all too familiar “lock her up” chant directed at his political opponent.
  • Removal of immigrants/halt immigration; he wants to build a wall with Mexico’s money, though he has no assurances of that, and wants to ban Muslims for national security, though the countries he chose had no prior incidents of emigrating terrorists and he left off those that do.
  • Split the nation; you’re either with him or you’re against him (and thank goodness the latter seems to be in the majority if polls and the popular vote are to be taken into account)
  • Racism, or subjugation of those deemed lesser.

The last one is what this article is about. Though policy has yet to, and we can hope Congress is not going to head down that fascist rabbit hole, begin to completely and overtly subjugate minorities (well, legal citizens anyway). But the rhetoric has begun, and many across the nation that support this man are running to the call. Charlottesville is not the first and it will not be the last such event of its kind. My urgency here is to show the binary, but remind everyone that sitting idly by is not going to help the situation. You don’t necessarily need to get up and get out to a protest or rally, but you must be vocal. Let all those around you know where you stand. Fascists don’t always wear brown shirts, but compassionate people that want freedom for EVERYONE can make themselves seen and heard. Join the fight.

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