Last weekend, what started out as planned protests against the removal of a confederate memorial and opposing counter-protest devolved into expressions of violence and hate, as crowds wielding torches, sporting swastika armbands, and carrying confederate and even Nazi flags marched through Charlottesville, VA. Images and footage from the days has been sweeping the nation, and embroiled all corners of the USA into serious debates about racism, national history, and freedom of speech.
I was not shocked that people want a statue of Robert E. Lee taken down. I was not shocked that people vehemently oppose that. I was not shocked that nationalists and neo-nazis protested in hate and violence, and I was not shocked that counter-protesters responded in kind.
No, what shocked me was the sudden and murderous escalation of violence against the leftist or liberal groups. What shocked me was how brazen these so-called “alt-right” individuals were in showing their faces, chanting slogans blunt in their support of Nazi ideology, showing off vibrant swastika flags and arm bands.
What shocked me is that none of these individuals gave a damn about who saw them, who knows they believe in such horrid ideology. Some may preach all they want about free speech rights protected under the first amendment, and they would not necessarily be wrong.
That doesn’t make this right.
Whatever your opinions of our president and his administration, you cannot deny certain words and actions (or lack thereof) feed these sorts of ideals and behaviours. By not calling the “alt-right” movement what it is — white supremacism, Nazism, etc. — we are allowing these groups to function under a veil of legitimacy.
Already the effects of this are rampant though my country, visible in protests and counter-protests like these from the Atlantic to the Pacific; audible in the speech produced by hatemongers proselytising from various corners of the Internet to various corner bars.
I do not see an end for this, not so long as people continue to mock the millennial ‘safe spaces’ while retreating into their own echo chambers and qualifications of how bigoted they actually are. Not so long as people parrot the mouthpieces mounting the airwaves, without a thought to facts or a care to reason.
I do not expect this to end overnight. I do not expect this to end in four years. This has been going on, progressing and regressing for some time. I only hope I can cease to be amazed at the apathy of my government and many of my countrymen, without having first drank myself into a stupor, and without seeing many more swastikas carried through my streets.
(Featured photo from Steve Helber with the A.P., as seen in Philadelphia Magazine.)