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My girlfriend and I were lying in bed last night watching the VICE News episode on the horrors that happened in Charlottesville last weekend. We had read many articles and heard many reports about the violence and racism that proliferated like wildfire that day, but this VICE News documentary was our (and I’m sure many others’) first time actually seeing it. Without any hyperbole, it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my life.
We live in New Haven, Connecticut, about as far removed from conservative white America as one can be. We have no Confederate monuments here. The backbone of New Haven is Yale University, a place where liberal ideas, scientific discovery, and intellectualism flourish. Our senior senator, Richard Blumenthal, is one of the most vocal opponents of Donald Trump in government, going as far as to call him out by name directly after the President’s shameful comments in the aftermath of the Charlottesville nightmare:
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) August 16, 2017
As terrifying as it was for us watching the events in Charlottesville unfold, it’s clear that we as white Connecticut residents are safe. I’m sure there are Nazis and members of the so-called “alt-right” living in our state, but their numbers are small. If they were to try to rally here it would be met with liberal dissenters numbering in the thousands, and they would be looked at as a laughing stock.
After the documentary was done, we held hands and looked at each other. We both had the same question on our minds: what can we do? Should we hop on a bus and head into the south to get to the front lines, so to speak? That would be great, but we’re just two people, and many folks from our bubble of progress and liberty will not make that trek. Should we donate to the ACLU? We already do, but maybe we should donate more? That seems like it’s too passive.
At that moment I thought of something that had happened a few days prior. Someone on my Facebook feed had posted an article about the Confederate monuments littering our nation that are being torn down in response to Charlottesville. A family member of mine commented that taking down the monuments is an attempt to re-write the past and that the monuments should stay up as a reminder of our true history.
I won’t fill this article with the reasons why that idea is horribly insensitive to the millions of Black Americans living here, not to mention ignorant of what these statues actually intend to represent. I’ll simply say that this family member of mine is dead wrong and, whether they know it or not, sympathizing with racism, Nazism, and white supremacists. The comment thread had many people arguing with this family member of mine, trying to get them to see how misguided their statements really are by presenting facts and progressive social talking points…but they weren’t budging.
So I unfriended them. A person with views like that is not a friend of mine, related or not. And then it hit me: this is what we can do. This is what anyone can do.
The events of Charlottesville have shown us all something, and that something is that Nazism is alive and well, right here in our home. Never mind the fact that World War II ended over 70 years ago and that millions of minorities were killed in one of the largest genocides in human history. The embers of that fire of hate and death never really went out, and fuel has been slowly poured on it ever since. It’s just now that we are noticing the embers have turned into a blaze.
Well, if history is repeating itself, I, for one, will have no part in it.
As children learning about WWII, one of the questions we’ve all raised in class was this: how did The Holocaust happen without anyone knowing about it? The answer our teachers gave us was simply, “Everyone not involved looked the other way.” This answer outrages children, because they don’t understand how it’s even possible. A child cannot grasp how you can see someone being dragged down the street to be shipped off to a death camp and simply ignore it.
Well, I will not ignore it. My eyes are open to what is going on, and I will not sit idly by while Nazis march in the streets and people sympathize with them in any way whatsoever.
From this point forward, anyone who expresses any amount of sympathy for white supremacists will be eliminated from my life. Anyone who tries to defend monuments to racism and the pro-slavery icons of the past will be unwelcome in my home. Anyone who supports President Donald Trump, who has proven over the past week that he is at best a Nazi sympathizer and at worst a white supremacist himself, will no longer be able to engage with me on any level. I don’t care if these people are my friends, my relatives, my co-workers, or even my own parents. If you don’t unequivocally denounce racism, fascism, and violent hatred, you are unworthy of my time.
It’s time to treat these ignorant people the same way we treat drug addicts: try your best to help them and get them through a difficult period, but if they burn you too many times cut them off. You can’t help an addict by continually showing them that there is no limit to your love and understanding, and you can’t show people who see Nazi flags at a rally and think it’s not a big deal that unlimited love and understanding either.
By all means, give them a fair shot. Talk with them, engage with them. Tell them why they are wrong to think the way they do and let them know that if they continue thinking this way you will no longer be able to be allies. Give it everything you’ve got to get them to see the light. But if they stand fast? Kick them to the curb. It’s the strongest message you can send.
So get on it, everyone. Let the culling commence.