Today is a really scary day, the more I think about it. I never thought that I would be reading the news and seeing that someone was killed by Nazis in my lifetime. That’s not me being melodramatic, either – that’s just a straightforward description of what happened today in Charlottesville. Every part of what has gone on there, from the torches to the chants and the violence – call it what it is, terrorism – is terrifying.
There is a tremendous urge to do something, although I am far away and my voice isn’t particularly powerful. There are people who’s voices are more important than mine and I hope people listen to them. However, as the day ends here, and I am safe and well, I feel that I have to do something in the face of this evil, and what else shall a writer do but write?
I am also a historian, but I’m not a historian of the 20th century, and I don’t really have any useful insight into the 1930s to bring to this. What I have is mostly a layperson’s knowledge, which may be just as well – it’s often not very useful, in the end, when we try to draw parallels between present and past. However, in this case, no comparison is necessary. We are literally seeing the fascism of the 1930s in action on the streets of the United States (and I do not delude myself by thinking that we’re so very far from that in Canada either) today. This isn’t a ‘well, it’s similar, and..’ situation. These are Nazis. I’ve always known that there were white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups out there, but I never imagined that I would see their hate and violence brought out quite so openly, nor, to be honest, in such numbers.
It’s disheartening and deeply frightening. There’s a lot of words being spilled about where the root of it lies, and whose fault this may be, because we do like to apportion blame. I submit to you that this is a task perhaps best left to tomorrow’s historians. At the moment, the more pressing question is what we do about it.
I really believe that ultimately what we need to do is stop hating each other. I really believe that ultimately, we’ve got to realize that we’re all on the same side and push together against the problems the human race needs to get busy solving. In the end, I don’t think we’ll make our society better through a fight, I think we’ll do it by finding ways to stop fighting. I think, by and large, we need to talk to each other, learn from one another, and find ways to appreciate our differences rather than allowing them to make us afraid.
These people are Nazis. They are carrying swastika flags and doing Hitler salutes and shouting about Jews. They are killing people. I have nothing to say to them. There is nothing to be learned from them except that sometimes, when you tolerate bad things, they grow until you finally take a stand.
The time for that stand is now. We do not need to hear these people out, we need to cast them out. We don’t need to reach an understanding with them, because their beliefs allow no understanding. We need to fight them, yes with words and a better example, but if it comes to it we gotta fight them for real too. We must protect those they want to victimize (which will, in time, be everyone if we allow it), whatever that takes. We’ve got to call out the racism and hatred when we see it, call it by its name and say ‘no not here’, every time. We’ve got to scream about their crimes at the top of our lungs and not allow this to get blurred with any ‘blame on both sides’ bullshit. The violence is because of fascism. The violence is because of the Nazis. The violence is because of the white supremacists. This is on them, absolutely, because they chose it, and they stood up to be counted with an ideology of pure hate. All that is left to the rest of us is to oppose it, uncompromisingly.
I don’t want to see one more life lost to this hateful ideology. There’s no nuance here. This is one of those relatively rare times when there is Good and there is Evil and the distinction is not particularly hard to make. No-one is neutral right now, because if you say you’re sitting this out you’re giving the evil more space to grow. Everyone is picking a side, whether they like that or not. The sides are super clear.
I know which one I’m on. It’s the one my grandfather went off to war for.
I truly believe that the ideology of division and hatred is on the wrong side of history, and that most people will choose the right side.
The time to pick is now.
Let’s get it done.