In light of the events of Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, a few of us had somethings to say. They are included below in three parts.
From our Secretary: George Reynolds
Mob psychology is like a drunken bully in a bar. He is going to start a fight with somebody over something. Rationality is not an operable word. However, I see an underlying trend in what brought the two sides in Charlottesville to clash.
In the Harry Potter novels, the diabolical evil nemesis is Lord Voldemort. His malevolent power is so extreme that one dare not mention his name for fear of exciting some calamity. This is called a taboo. Of course, our hero (Harry) does not follow social custom in this case, thus pointing out to us his heroic nature. One cannot blame the other witches for following the custom; after all, their entire culture is based on magic, incantations, and superstition. Harry is our hero so we think the rest are being silly. In school when we learned that some so called primitive tribesmen in Africa could not refer to their mothers in law directly, we laughed.
Yet we seem to be heading in a direction in this country to expand the list of what is taboo. Keep in mind that a taboo is more than social non-acceptance. It is, in effect, a prohibition. For instance, Jewish law prohibits the pronunciation of the tetragrammaton YHWH (the name of God). This, to the outsider, is a taboo. The preeminent English language taboo is the n-word. It is good that it is frowned upon but now one cannot even use words that sound close to it. On the other hand, the f-bomb has gone the other direction.
I think this trend to making things taboo is merely a symptom of an underlying intolerance and sometimes ignorance. Germany does, I understand, prohibit the display of Nazi symbols. Well, they are closer to the issue than are we. What bothers me about our country is the ignorance about the swastika. As a religious symbol it predates the Nazis by 2500 years. So when it is prohibited in any form does that mean no religious use? Did you know that there are male and female swastikas and the Nazi symbol is the female? So is it OK to display the male? And Hitler ruined a style of moustache for everybody (I don’t think it was that popular in the first place).
But it hasn’t been that many years in this country since flag burning was the “in” thing to do and many in the government wanted to send people to prison for it. Luckily, it was decided that it was free speech. I worked in a prison. I have a big reluctance to send somebody there for burning just a symbol or saying a particular word.
The objection to the Confederate statuary is that they are seen as symbols of slavery and the defenders thereof. Fair enough. I get that … but is that the way everybody sees them? No, it is not. I want to remind everybody that the so called Civil War was about slavery but also preserving the Union. Unfortunately, the term state’s rights is now largely seen as “code” for segregation and discrimination. Creeping taboo.
Having said all of that, I am not going to punch you in the nose for lobbying to get the statues taken down nor for mounting a peaceful demonstration. I am not going to be the guy to say the alt-Right can’t have a counter demonstration. But I am going to be the guy that supports the authorities when violence erupts. Your views could change as you get older. Take my word for it. The person you kill no longer has the option of changing their views.
From our Chair: James Felber
Two wrongs do not make a right. Don't ask me to choose between the two sides in Charlottesville. It is the lesser to two evils argument. Yes, the right wing Nazi's are probably the most evil, that doesn't mean I choose the greater or the lesser, I choose none.
By radically opposing the alt right you are only feeding their fears and giving them ammunition to recruit more followers. They can say look, our free speech and rights to assemble is being stopped by the left, we must fight to stop the left from taking over.
If you want to stop the alt right, you have to challenge them to open debates and let them fall on their own swords. The truth shall set you free, but by radically opposing the alt right there is no truth, just violence. Blood feuds don't end well for either side.
America is divided because we allow our leadership to divide us. We don't allow open debates, we prevent all third parties from fair and equal time and allow the alt left and the alt right to set the national agenda. Charlottesville is not an isolated case, it can happen anywhere, when we don't allow the majority of Americans to freely and openly express themselves. We are then only left with extremist viewpoints who won't be silenced.
The debate is not over Confederate monuments but over how we deal with them. To appease one side means removing them, that only offends the other side and thus we end up with violence. I'm sorry to anyone that a Confederate monument offends, but it is and was history. You can't hide it. What you can do is to put them in the correct context. That may mean moving them, that may mean adding alternate monuments, it may mean adding to them so that both sides of the story is expressed. What we can't do is allow one side to shut the other side out of the debate with violence and protests. All voices deserve to be heard, right or wrong and then a rational decision should be reached
From our Communications Director: David Rohde
The terms "left wing" and "right wing" have lost their original meaning, dating back to the French Revolution. The left side of the room is where the commoners, being typically against the government at the time. The right side was the aristocrats, being typically with the government at the time. Modern American culture has a different context for what "left" and "right" mean. And because the American government is so enormous and involved in so many things, the idea of "left" and "right" don't give enough context to where an individual or group of individual might stand politically. A better way to determine it is with a political compass of sorts. Where the X-Axis represents economic (such as business tax rates, labor laws, private property laws, etc), and the Y-Axis represents social policy (drugs, prostitution, religious laws, school). Generally speaking, the more left you are on the X-Axis, the more control you believe the government should have over the economy, the more right you are, the less control you believe the government should have over the economy. In this case, the term "far-left" would mean total socialism where the government owns "the means of production" and the economy is completely centrally planned by the government. "Far-right" would mean the government is completely out of the economy.
One of the things that has bothered me is how people on the "left" and "right" (even though I hate those terms) are playing hot potato with fascism. Accusing the other side of being the side of fascism. In fact, there has been some controversy with certain dictionaries. In the last few years, they have added the phrase "right wing" to the definition of fascism. It was completely false. Because fascism doesn't "belong" to the left or the right. Luckily for the American discourse, most dictionaries have removed the phrase from the definition. To figure out who "fascism" belongs to, you have to look at the vertical Y-Axis. Where the farther up you go, the more authoritarian the government becomes, dictating your day to day life and having more control over your personal choices. The farther down you go, the less control the government has in your day to day personal choices. This is the Axis that fascism belongs on. The farther up the Y-Axis, the more and more fascist the government becomes.
Fascism can be either "left" or "right". Left Wing fascism would be Stalinist Russia or present day north Korea. The government had complete control over the economy and markets, while also having complete control over its citizens, throwing them in labor camps or executing them for something as simple criticizing the ruling regime. Right Wing fascism would be the Military dictatorship of President Augusto Pinochet of Chile. He implemented almost completely free market policies and allowed the economy to run without much intervention. However, he too had authoritarian policies towards personal actions. He jailed political dissenters, and executed his rivals by dropping them out of helicopters. The more obvious examples of fascism are that of Nazi Germany. While the Nazi party controlled almost every aspect of its citizens lives, executing dissenters, and of course rounding up people by race, religion, ethnicity and killing them en masse in death camps. When it came to economics, the Nazi party didn't take complete control. They seized the businesses of their enemies, but many things were left untouched. This is what I would call "Centrist" fascism.
Its a waste of time to argue which "side" fascism belongs to. It has its own side. The Authoritarian side. Limiting speech of any kind is authoritarian. Seizing property of innocent people is authoritarian. Executing civilians is authoritarian. Any law that interferes with an individual's or group of individual's rights to life, liberty, and property creep the country up the authoritarian scale. It doesn't happen over night in most countries. It happens little by little. Just as it has in the US over its history. A law here. A restriction there. Bending the bill of rights just so. It seems so innocuous. Until you step back and see the breadth of it all. That is the banality of totalitarianism.
This is why I wasn't surprised by the Charlottesville riot. Little by little, the culture of America creeps up the authoritarian scale. Political sub-groups have their own different demands, but the demands are authoritarian all the same. Fascism is political system of extreme state violence. So it would make sense that the more authoritarian you want the government to be, the more violence you see acceptable against the people who break your arbitrary moral code. Its why identity politics fits so well into authoritarianism. Some group that you naturally belong to is the "good" one. Anyone outside of it is "evil". Authoritarianism is the man who attempted to murder the Republican congressmen a couple months ago. The Antifa crowd must bare that Albatross. Authoritarianism is the man who ran over 20 people with his car, killing one of them. The Alt-Right must bare that one. But they have the same thing in common: fascistic political violence. And their actions fuel the other in a spiral of escalation. I was worried when those Republicans were shot and people cheered or shrugged and said it was okay because they were Republican. I was worried that if the violence continued, someone would get killed. Now someone has. And the violence is showing no signs of stopping. If it doesn't soon, more people will die.
But I'll tell you my biggest worry about these nationalist riots: When does the violence get bad enough that the government responds with actions beyond protection? How hard will the hammer of the police state come down? I think about those questions a lot. I can only hope that the violence ends. But fascistic personalities don't go away over night. And now that someone has finally been killed, the blowback will be just as violent and just as horrifying. And when that happens, the State's response won't be friendly.