Thursday, August 24, 2017

Blame Enough to Go Around—Nazis Be Damned

Bald-faced politics here.

"I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens' Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace, which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: 'I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action...'"
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Letter from Birmingham Jail

I’ve been struggling for days over the events of Charlottesville and the subsequent fallout.  Political agendas, rife with King’s sentiment of “negative peace” were everywhere, and I was at a loss the reasons why.  Why were otherwise good, respectable, likable individuals railing against the counter-protest, and making the fallacy of generalization, lumping all those who were standing up against Nazis—GODDAMN NAZIS—in with Antifa and its agenda of meeting violence with violence?

Then, this morning, a friend asked me to read this article from CNN, which included the above quote.  It shook me to the core.  King’s quote especially wraps it up.

It's everyone's fault.

There is no moral high-ground to be had.

The problem goes all the way back to the framers of the Constitution who, in their mad desire to create a just and equitable system not just for the rich or the “well-born” but for all, said that freedom of speech—the ability to say almost anything about anything without the fear of government reprisal—must be protected.

And here I join "Those who say 'yes, but...'" from the article—Yes, but . . . that's exactly what democracy and freedom and all the values that we claim to hold dear, are all about. Evelyn Beatrice Hall, translating Voltaire's response to the burning of a book and the beating and exile of its author, encapsulated our belief, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”*

And there we have it.

Tacit approval of an ideology that, at our very core, we should abhor and decry and fight and rage against at every turn.  If we allow for freedom of speech, then we must defend in equal measure freedom of expression and the right to hold an opinion—any opinion—no matter how dangerous.  The Germans, post WWII, looked at the fascist ideology and said, “Never again.”  Fascism is built on abuse and genocide.  The ideology is based on a nationalist agenda, and immediately sets up one group/race as “superior” to all others.  Whether stated or implied, purity of race/nation is the cornerstone of fascism.  All injustices against those deemed "inferior" who fail to meet the arbitrary standards of "purity", up to and including genocide, are not just acceptable, but justified and approved.

But Germany said, “Never again!” and they’ve stuck to that.  No easy task.  The Strafgesetzbuch (German penal code) section 86a forbids the use of symbols and propaganda of groups deemed "unconstitutional" except outside of art, science, education or research.  They’ve recently added the Daesh/ISIS/ISIL flag to that list of symbols.

Here enters the slippery slope argument.

Provided the government deems a symbol, a slogan, a chant an "anything" unconstitutional, then it is.  That could include Mickey Mouse, the Rainbow Flag, or Monster Energy drinks. It doesn't matter if it's 14 words of hate, or the Gettysburg Address—if so ordered, that's how it would be.  Of course, getting a true democratically elected body of government to agree on such is difficult at best, and it's clear the Germans have avoided such a totalitarian slide admirably over the past 70+ years.  But the argument—fallacy that it is—is there, and it's easy to see.

The fear of failure, the myth of persecution, is there and writ large.

So, here we are, freedom-loving, law-abiding, virtue-extolling Americans granting permits to actual, literal, nightmares-become-real Nazis, whose stated agenda is to take power and start subjugating all those "inferior" races as quickly as possible, including murdering them right off the face of the Earth.  Actual advocacy for nothing less than genocide based solely on “racial purity” lines, and we're giving tacit approval to these beliefs.  We allow the President of the United States, the "leader of the free world" to wink and nod and smile, to the point that white power supremacists take his message as open agreement.

Why?  Because we hold freedom of speech higher than the right to life?

I’m at a complete loss as to what role a reasonable citizen should play.  Advocacy of violence is antithetical.  Counter-protesters are maligned, attacked, even killed.  The actions of Nazis are "justified" because . . . I don't know.  They had a permit.  I'm no closer to answer on this, so if you happen to have one, please, feel free.  Comments are below.

* Yes, I assure you, it was not Patrick Henry either who made the statement.  Although the sentiment is certainly wrapped up in his “Give me liberty, or give me death,” never did he utter those words.

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