Irene North

Writings

When will you step up and speak out?

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

Yes, they are racist. If we don’t do something to stop this now, it will only get worse.

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.

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.”

CORRECTING HISTORY

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


James Alex Fields Jr. (c.) brandished a shield from the Vanguard America group before the Charlottesville attack.
(Go Nakamura/New York Daily News)

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.

When you say nothing about the incident in Charlottesville, you condone it. When you try to usewhataboutism” on this incident, you condone it.

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.

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43 Comments

  1. Rick Myers

    Very powerful and well done!

  2. AJ Legault

    Thanks for writing this article.
    I’m horrified at these people, feeling emboldened to be awful.

  3. Carole L. Mix

    Things that needed to be said. Great blog. Keep up the good work Irene.

  4. Susan Miller Leeling

    You write:
    “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.

    When you say nothing about the incident in Charlottesville, you condone it. When you try to use “whataboutism” on this incident, you condone it.”
    You really mean, when I didn’t vote for Hillary, I voted for this. Ha! Your article is simply another jab at the conservative right. I saw your post about “unfriending” you if someone disagrees with you. That’s a very mature viewpoint and so liberal of you! Like I said earlier, a supposed journalist. lol

    • Irene North

      Thank you for your comment and failing to understand the difference between a news article and an editorial piece.

    • Maunette Loeks

      Who IS this person?

    • Stephanie Bradley Leeper

      To to her Facebook page and you’ll understand. Deplorable!

    • Irene North

      Maunette Loeks Someone I suggest everyone ignore. Troll. Ignorant. Both maybe. Not worth your time.

    • Susan Miller Leeling

      Yes, it was an editorial, I understand that; along with your little jab. But that’s okay. Even editorials need investigation for their information.

    • Irene North

      Susan Miller Leeling How about this. You stop being a troll and just stop following me. You obviously are happy living in your right wing fantasy land where Trump is the greatest guy ever and everything else is the fault of the evil left. you wouldn’t even admit earlier that this nutjob is part of the right and killed people. You blamed the Antifa with no evidence. You don’t want to see things differently. You don’t want dialogue. You have no desire to learn or understand you are actually part of the problem in this country. Just go away.

    • Susan Miller Leeling

      Deplorable? Because I stand up for what I believe? I guess that makes me guilty as charged. Troll? No, I’m right here, you can find me anytime and I’m honest about who I am. Ignorant? Hardly. But I’ll be on my way. You liberals have fun in your safe space with your diaper pins.

    • Stephanie Bradley Leeper

      Irene North Just block her. She’s getting off on all the attention.

    • Irene North

      Susan Miller Leeling You’re not right. You are delusional and have bought into what Roger Ailes fed you for 40 years. He did a good job on you too. You are ignorant. You just haven’t realized it yet. I don’t need a safe space. I’m not the one distancing myself from someone who I encouraged. That’s the Nazis who started this shit. Oh, and it’s you. As soon as this guy ran over people, you insisted it must be the left who did it. You couldn’t imagine it was one of your own. You know what? I take responsibility and when someone who thinks like me does something wrong, I own up to it. I don’t try to run and hide.

    • Irene North

      Stephanie Bradley Leeper I am very tempted to do so.

    • Stephanie Bradley Leeper

      Irene North do she’s not worth our time.

    • Stephanie Bradley Leeper

      Plus it gives her a venue to spew her ugliness. It’s not facts. I looked on her page and she seriously has a ton of fake news propaganda on there. She’s drank the orange Fool-aid!!

    • Irene North

      Stephanie Bradley Leeper Done.

    • Irene North

      Stephanie Bradley Leeper I honestly tried to get her to think differently. I don’t like to unfriend people, but, fuck, she took up my whole damned day. Mary had to argue with her last night. It just makes me sad when people don’t even want to look at what you ask them to. She asked me to look at something. I did. I pointed out why it wasn’t valid and then she goes off again.

    • Stephanie Bradley Leeper

      Irene North I get it. You tried but she just kept repeating herself and not being truthful. Plus she was trying to put you down. That’s not right! Good riddance!

    • John Grier

      The religious right or the political right, think that constantly repeating the same thing will get their point across, but it just is annoying.

    • Mary Mumm

      It’s been an exhausting 48 hours. The amount of people who are convincing me that they aren’t racist but then they want me to understand “Southern Heritage”. Um, no thanks. I just had a woman tell me to google Booker T Washington and how he’s a part of the South. Really? Huh, you think I need to google that do ya? Maybe you should actually research his life…

    • Maunette Loeks

      Who is this person though? Do you know her personally?

    • Maunette Loeks

      I have mostly been trying to figure out is this a REAL person or someone under a fake name?

    • John Grier

      Irene: may I make a suggestion? Do the following to get rid of your bad day: go to YouTube and pull up the almost 2 hour discussion between:
      Christopher Hitchens
      Daniel Dennett
      Sam Harris
      Richard Dawkins.
      But before that, go to Kellys Liquor Store and buy a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch (Christopher Hitchens favorite alcohol) and forget about her ignorance.

    • Mary Mumm

      Maunette Loeks, shes real. 56 year old woman lives in Alliance married to a Douglas Leeling. her son Jesse was married in 2011 at Monument Bible Church. sadly, her father-in-law passed away in 2016 at 82. Her husband was his only son. It appears she owns a mail service business in Hemingford. It was opened in 2014, under the name SEL Enterprises and makes approx. $56,000 a year and employs 2. I’m on mobile data and not Wi-Fi so a pretty shallow dive, but registered to vote. 😋

    • Eddie Cable

      Omg, we both have issues with crazy trump supporters.

  5. Irene North

    Mary Mumm Mary Mumm That’s how I feel right now. The cognitive dissonance and hoop jumping to make themselves feel better is exhausting to watch and be roped into. Let’s all go to bed and start over tomorrow. I’m pooped. Oh, and that blog post took me six hours to do. So, I’m pooped from that too.

  6. Irene North

    Oh, and it seems you can’t reply to her thing anymore, but it’s still here on Facebook. That’s probably because I blocked her, so it’s locked. I’m okay with that.

  7. Kerri Schnase-Berge

    Americans who condone this obviously don’t understand what America is anymore. We are in very troubled times.

  8. Peter Dampier

    Good article Irene. I too am very deeply disturbed by people who not only voted for Trump because “Hillary was evil” and to “give him a chance” who are now just silent. Silent. Amongst all of this. Silent.

    • Irene North

      I had hoped some of them would comment here, but you’re right. It’s just silence. If I say anything in person to them, it’s “not me” and “I wish Facebook would just return to cat pictures and photos of my family.”

    • Peter Dampier

      Yup, sounds familiar.

  9. Jennifer Rogers

    Irene, thank you for your clear, moving, and spot on assessment. I’ve found myself feeling incredibly emotional, more so than usual, over how horrible these events and subsequent reactions, or lack thereof, have been. Thank you for calling this what it is and eloquently pulling together all of the pieces. I’m trying to keep some hope that maybe something good can come from this in that more people speak out and take action to support those being targeted most severely by these bigots and those in power.

    • Irene North

      I do hope more people will speak out. It’s the silence that gives the approval of this behavior. I do hold out hope that people will start stepping up and admonishing anyone who approves this behavior, which includes an unwillingness to say anything.

  10. Nina Betz

    Irene, thank you for using your mind and energy to speak for us. We know it’s stressful. There is an infectuous boil on America’s back side that has finally burst. Each one of us must speak out against hate when we hear it, whether we’re at a picnic in our own yard, the grocery store, church or any public place where hate is spewed. PEOPLE, WE MUST DO THIS. We must suffer through a few minutes of discomfort and possibly danger to ourselvs to eradicate this evil from our nation.

  11. Nina Betz

    People, please please, repost this in your own words every chance you get. WE MUST DO THIS TO ERADICATE EVIL.

  12. Candice Fisher Pederson

    Great article. I can’t believe how people think this is OK. Obviously we haven’t learned from history. I get tired of people who keep defending trump’s dumb ass, acting like we’re suppose to be loyal to him because he’s “president.” That is not how democracy works. I agree, anyone who doesn’t speak out against this is just as much a part of it.

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