It’s a strong word, and one many people flinch from using, particularly when applied to other human beings. We tend to prefer terms like “misguided” or “mentally ill” or “brainwashed”. We hesitate to label someone or some group of people as just plain evil.
We hesitate for good reason. Extreme labels such as that have consequences. If someone or something is evil, then it must be opposed by all women and men of good conscience. It cannot be ignored or allowed to fester. It must be actively opposed, by strong measures. It must be destroyed, if we are capable of doing so. So we should be careful in applying such a label.
Nonetheless, I can think of no word that is more fitting for white supremacists, neo-Nazis and unabashed open racists, a couple dozen of whom participated in a pathetic “Unite the Right” rally in Washington yesterday, commemorating the one year anniversary of the larger and more violent rally by the same name in Charlottesville.
So now that I have labeled it, I have to do something about it if I am to continue to consider myself a man of good conscience. I have marched in racial justice rallies before, and have spoken out strongly in this space and others about racial justice, but I confess that I did not join the thousands of counter-demonstrators who flocked to the Mall yesterday. It’s a weak excuse, but frankly the inconvenience of going downtown kept me away, so I stayed home and watched golf on TV, while we kept an eye out for any developing news.
I somewhat regret not going, even though it turns out my voice was not needed. Counter demonstrators outnumbered the racists by more than a hundred to one and the “Unite the Right” rally was a complete and utter failure, with the lone speaker being unable to make himself heard and the handful of pathetic losers who attended needing police protection for their own safety before hustling out of town with their tails between their legs.
Part of me says that’s good. Racists should not feel safe or accepted in America. Evil should not feel safe and accepted.
I understand the feelings of people who wonder why the police have not tried so hard to protect liberal protesters or protesters of color over the years, and in fact have been downright hostile to them on many occasions.
I understand it, but I don’t agree. I am thankful that the DC police and other law enforcement agencies did a thorough and professional job of keeping the peace and preventing violence yesterday. They are to be commended for their efforts.
I also understand the passions that move some to want to confront this evil physically. To attack and destroy it with violence. I have felt such temptations myself and have fantasized frequently about driving my fists into the faces of sneering racists in an orgy of righteous anger.
But in the end, I realize that is largely a testosterone fueled male fantasy and not the appropriate response to evil in this case. It is also likely to be counterproductive.
That is not because I am non-violent or even non-confrontational by nature. I believe that violence, particularly in self-defense or in the defense of others, is justified and sometimes is even the only viable option.
This isn’t one of those cases.
Evil and repugnant as these poor excuses for human beings are, brawling with them in the streets is not the correct response to their malignancy.
Absolutely they must be countered and the thousands of counter protesters who showed up in Washington to make this point yesterday have my admiration. Racism, our original sin in America, and the one we seem to have the hardest time shaking, must be opposed each and every time it rears its ugly head.
But not with street brawls.
As cathartic as it would be to just smash on them until they collapse or flee, it is counterproductive. It’s what they want. They want to be able to portray those who oppose them as just as violent as they are. They want to be able to say they were victims. They want to be able to whine about suppression of their rights.
And make no bones about it. There is a much wider audience of people predisposed to agree with them, or at least to find some merit in their argument. The well of racial insecurity and fear in America is deep and just waiting for propagandists to tap into it, as they have repeatedly over the years when they hyped relentlessly every little example of hatred and violence coming from the left. Using it to fan the flames of unjustified and ridiculous resentment that Donald Trump rode into office.
So I urge the passionate young people who call themselves the “antifa” to channel and harness their anger. To grow up a little and put aside what makes them feel good in favor of what actually accomplishes good.
Absolutely evil needs to be opposed, and opposed vigorously. Shouted down and countered. Mocked and shamed. Driven from the ranks of decent society and back out of the light and into the corrupt and twisted shadows they emerged from, with the rest of the cockroaches and rats.
But not with brawling in the streets. That has been tried before, perhaps most notably by communists in 1920s and 30s Germany when the Nazis were emerging from their own twisted shadows. The result was an increase in political support for the Nazis among “normal” German people, who were scared by the violence and wanted order restored.
Antifa supporters like to say that pro-democracy liberals and moderates in pre-war Germany didn’t stop the Nazis with their peaceful protests and words. That’s undeniably true. But neither did the communist gangs that brawled with them in the streets. Instead they helped evil take hold in the hearts of an entire nation.