I was once told that anything you say before the word “but” is worthless. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the response to those events.
A group of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and other “alt-right” associations marched into Charlottesville Friday night leading into Saturday for a “Unite the Right” rally. The group came in waving Nazi and Confederate flags, heiling Hitler and spewing hate, bigotry and racism in all directions under the guise of being part of the right wing, conservative ideology in the United States of America.
Saturday, rally goers (re: Nazis) clashed with counter demonstrators, part of which were from a group known as Antifa — or anti-fascists — which people have aligned with the left wing, liberal ideology in the United States of America.
The clash led to screaming, then to beating and eventually a car was driven into a group by a rally goer — killing one, Heather Heyer, and injuring 20 others.
The reaction from political leaders to these events was, well, strange. While many condemned Nazis, Klansmen and other associated groups by name and left it at that, I saw many people I know and many political leaders saying something like this:
“Nazis, Klansmen and all other racist, bigoted, white supremacists are terrible and do not represent America, but [there’s that word] there was violence coming from the left, they are also to blame.”
There are several problems with this type of response.
First, when using a group you disagree with on the left to justify the actions of literal Nazis, you align Nazis with the right, with conservatives, with the Republican party.
That may not be the intention, but when violence from another group is used to excuse violence and hate from another, where does that leave us? An eye for an eye.
Now, I will admit I saw several prominent Republican legislators vehemently condemning by name the alt-right, KKK, nazis, et al for what happened in Charlottesville and for their ideology in general. They said they do not represent the GOP or America for that matter.
And they left it at that. I respect that.
I saw other people make more excuses for Nazis than they made for Colin Kaepernick when he decided to peacefully, quietly kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest. Less excuses were made for a man quietly kneeling, because it was disrespectful to our flag and country, than were made for men literally carrying our stars and stripes next to a swastika. Talk about disrespect.
I’m not going to argue whether Antifa is bad, good or indifferent, or if the actions and beliefs of nazis and KKK justify what Antifa did in Charlottesville, because that would go against the argument I’m making here that you can’t excuse the bad of one group because of the bad of another.
Antifa traces its roots back to anti-fascist groups in the 1920s and1930s who literally fought fascists in Europe, which led to anti-fascist groups in punk music who literally fought skinheads trying to invade the music scene. The group has always been based in direct force, not enacting policy change.
While punching a Nazi seems pretty dang American, I do have problems with Antifa. My biggest problem is that their tactics provide a way to excuse — or at least distract from — white supremacy. The actions of Antifa allow white supremacists to paint themselves as victims and earn sympathy. The tactics of Antifa go against the ideology of civil disobedience.
Antifa is not equal to white supremacists, though. They aren’t the “left’s version” of the “alt-right,” which I agree is not a part of the right wing — but if allowed to go on pretending, the right may soon lose its base to that ideology.
To paraphrase Chris Rock: If one man is willing to march with 10 Nazis, I’d say you have 11 Nazis.
You can’t give an excuse to hate, bigotry and Nazism by saying folks were pushed to this “by the left.” You can’t excuse hate, bigotry and Nazism period. We fought a war with the entire world to prove that Nazism has no place on this earth, especially not in the US.
There comes a time when we have to point out that something is wrong and stop allowing it to happen. I understand more than anything the importance of free speech. I understand these folks should be allowed to spew their disgusting beliefs if they so choose.
Let them do that. Then furiously lash back out with your own free speech. From all sides. Democrat, Republican, I don’t care. Make it known widely and definitively — with absolutely no attempt to excuse — that Nazism, racism and terror will not be accepted and will not be tolerated in this country.
Because there is no excuse. I don’t care how bad someone has had it, or how bad they have been treated. There is no excuse for becoming a Nazi.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun and opponent of Nazism in all forms. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.