I almost can’t believe I’m writing about Nazis.
Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s in upstate New York, I heard about Nazis a lot. They were the evil people the world fought in World War II. Why the world fought is a complicated matter, but in simple terms, Nazis wanted to eliminate anyone not like them. To them, Jews were most responsible for the ills in Germany. But if you were Polish, mentally ill, old, etc., you were a target as well.
While the Nazis were defeated, remnants of their ideology lingered. In the United States, the First Amendment to our Constitution values free speech so much, Nazis, white nationalist and fascists are allowed to continue with their rhetoric and protests. As a teenager, I saw and read news articles about the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and white nationalist rallies. Most of them were in the South. Everyone laughed. We knew these people were on the fringes of society. We educated ourselves about these groups and decided we wanted no part of any group promoting hate and exclusion of others.
Fast forward to the last decade. These hateful people were still around, but they received validation from people who did not like a black man in the White House. They hung President Obama in effigy. They called him vile names.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, they came back with a vengeance. Conservatives didn’t admonish them. Some liberals didn’t either. Everyone was under the impression these repugnant human beings were still on the fringe. Donald Trump seemed to encourage them.
I, and others, however, warned what a Trump presidency could be like. On election day, I told several people their vote for Trump would only embolden the racists. They scoffed. They said they weren’t racist. I explained a vote for Trump was a vote condoning sexist and racist behavior. They wouldn’t believe me. Today, I sit in my living room, having watched the events which unfolded on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 and I again have this same argument. Only this time, the Trump supporters I know are saying these people were just “fed up Americans” and they aren’t racist or Nazis.
I’m fed up, too. I don’t, however, kill people or treat others like garbage to make myself feel superior. I attempt to talk to others, at least those who are willing to have an honest, open dialogue and don’t regurgitate Breitbart or FOX News.
You are Nazis. If you walk around with swastika tattoos, yell, “Jews will not replace us,” “Seig Heil,” and “Blood and Soil,” you’re a Nazi. If you extend the Nazi salute, you’re a Nazi. And these people like what they hear from the president.
A HISTORY LESSON
In recent years, there has been a push to remove Confederate statues and monuments from their respective places in the South. Some have said this is an effort to rewrite history. Those who live in the South believe their ancestors were heroes who were defending the south against oppressors in Washington. Many claim the south was fighting for state’s rights, but that’s disingenuous.
In their declarations of causes of seceding from the United States, the southern states made clear, their property – slaves – were at the heart of the matter.
Georgia said, “For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic.”
Georgia went on to say everyone agreed Africans were subordinate and unequal to Whites and the North didn’t complain when they received goods from the south made with slave hands, so there are no need to argue it now. Georgia ended its declaration by saying depriving them of their slaves would result in a subversion of society and destruction of their families.
Mississippi said, “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization.”
Mississippi listed 14 reasons it was seceding. Four did not directly relate to slavery.
South Carolina said the Declaration of Independence said they were free, sovereign and independent states. Citing Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, South Carolina was angry the North didn’t uphold the law which stated if a slave escaped into another state, it was that state’s responsibility to return the slave back to the party to “whom such service or labor may be due.” In the declaration, South Carolina was angry at the belief the entire government now thought as the northern states did.
Texas viewed the United States as a country that wanted slaves forever. Texas was upset that no more state could join the Union as slave states and called the Northern States disloyal and the federal government imbeciles. Texas was also angry that the government did not do enough to protect them from “Indian savages” and the “murderous forays of banditti from the neighboring territory of Mexico.”
Texas accused abolitionists of “actively sowing the seeds of discord through the Union.” Texas lists seven ways these groups have deprived slave owners of their slaves.
Virginia also said the federal government perverted their powers, “not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.”
That’s right. The southern states were being oppressed. Not black people. That’s what they believed.
Imagine if these people ever faced actual oppression. pic.twitter.com/dhPCbtfEjO
— Julius Goat (@JuliusGoat) August 12, 2017
Yes, secession was technically a state’s rights issue, but for anyone to ever say it had nothing to do with slavery is a liar. Those state’s rights were about keeping their property – slaves.
Do not let others claim only a minority of people owned slaves. While this is true, the majority in the South supported slavery. It’s a twisting of the truth to validate their point.
This is what you are celebrating if you are celebrating the Confederacy. The confederate flag is not a symbol of southern heritage. It is a symbol of hate, exclusion and white superiority. It always has been.
And if you want to put it in the context of the times, half the country didn’t want slavery and most of the world had already abolished it. Slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1833. The empire had abolished the slave trade in 1807. Western and Eastern Europe, Central and South America all abandoned slavery and serfdom in the early 1800s to 1859.
IT’S TIME TO CHANGE
Saturday, August 12, 2017 is a stain on our nation. Those who marched with their tiki torches, Hitler salutes and screamed, “Blood and Soil” are cowards and terrorists.
Donald Trump stroked the racist’s egos and stoked the irrational fear they have of other people. Trump’s rhetoric emboldened these people. The silence of people who voted for Trump and claim they are not like this, are giving tacit approval of their actions.
During the election campaign, Trump received vocal support from white nationalist groups. He refused to condemn the KKK. He was endorsed by former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. Trump repeatedly attacked the Obama administration and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for being weak on radical Islamic terrorism. Yet he is silent on radical white terrorism.
If a Muslim had driven that car on Saturday, would we be calling this terrorism? You know we would. This was a domestic terrorist attack by neo-Nazi white supremacists. Trump is weak on terrorism, but when it’s his base, he won’t contradict them.
This country needs to educate itself once again to rid ourselves of racism, bigotry and hatred. We need to tell every citizen white supremacy is not acceptable. It is not normal. There is no discussion on this. If we want to return to normal, we cannot accept hatred and fear of “the other.”
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe told the group, many of whom aren’t from Virginia, “Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you’re patriots, but you are anything but a patriot.”
Over the past few years, several states have been removing Confederate statues and monuments. This is not rewriting history. This is correcting history. The Confederate cause was not honorable. If you support the Confederacy today, you are supporting slavery.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee was a traitor. He fought so one group of people could keep another group of people as slaves. No, he wasn’t against slavery. That’s a myth conjured up to make him more kind and palatable. He explicitly said he was pro-slavery in an 1856 letter.
“I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy.”
Peter Cvjetanovic, 20, seen in the picture above, told KTVN Channel 2 in Reno, Nevada he isn’t a racist.
“I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture,” Cvjetanovic told Channel 2 News. “It is not perfect; there are flaws to it, of course. However I do believe that the replacement of the statue will be the slow replacement of white heritage within the United States and the people who fought and defended and built their homeland. Robert E Lee is a great example of that. He wasn’t a perfect man, but I want to honor and respect what he stood for during his time.”
The man he wants to honor is one who took pleasure in the physical punishment of slaves and splitting up slave families.
Historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor told The Atlantic, “Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that ‘not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.’”
John C. Breckinridge was the last Confederate States Secretary of War. He fled the country after the South lost the Civil War. He is a coward, but he has a memorial in Kentucky. Lexington Mayor Mayor Jim Gray said it’s coming down, along with all the other Confederate statues and monuments in town.
Leave the battlefields. Leave Appomatox Court House. Teach the real history in books and museums. Don’t honor traitors in public spaces. Monuments and statues are for raising people up who made the world better.
A CHANGE NEEDS TO COME
The terrorist from Saturday is James Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio. He marched with Vanguard America, a fascist organization, before plowing over pedestrians. The group is already trying to distance themselves from Fields, claiming he wasn’t a member, therefore they aren’t responsible for his actions.
But they all are responsible. Anyone who voted for Trump is responsible. Anyone who failed to learn history when it was taught to you in school is responsible.
When you said you couldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, you voted for this. When you watched people roughed up and beaten at Trump rallies, you voted for this. When you excused his “grab ’em by the pussy” comments, you voted for this. When you listened to the man at the pulpit, you voted for this. When white nationalists endorsed Trump, you voted for this. When you ignored Trump’s racist comments, you voted for this. When you poo-pooed his mocking a disabled reporter, you voted for this.
But I am still standing across the street. There is no line in the sand. Come and stand on my side and loudly proclaim, “This is not right. This is not normal” and be on the right side of history.
Our grandparents and great-grandparents hunted and killed Nazis for the ideology spewed forth on Saturday. We should never allow it to return to normal. Don’t make excuses for them. It makes them stronger.
The U.S. Constitution gives them the right to gather and shout their words of hate. It doesn’t absolve them of the consequences of their speech. Make them own it. Don’t let them hide under a hood.
These people are remnants of history. May they return to the textbooks and not our streets.
As President Barack Obama tweeted and Nelson Mandela wrote in his autobiography, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
It’s time we help them learn how to love.