Should You Get Involved?
I do not usually dwell on the same subject in both the weekly columns I write for this magazine. But recent events have compelled me to make an exception.
The Nazis behind the protest in Virginia last week have made it clear they plan to organize further demonstrations in the near future. This will inevitably bring out counter-protestors. The question is: should you get involved?
It is unlikely that the only people who will participate in such counter-protests will be from Black Lives Matter and other organized groups. The sight of white supremacists in their backyard tends to raise the ire of every decent, reasonable, and civilized person. Locals, when they hear of the Nazi incursion into their city, will take action on their own. If you live in or near one of the places visited by racist groups, you will need to decide whether you want to go out onto the streets and be part of the crowd that confronts them.
Most people, and you may be one of them (I certainly am), do not feel the urge to express their disagreement or repugnance of a person, group, or political action by being part of a mass protest or counter-protest. You may think it sufficient to express your disapproval through social media; that is the way that most people nowadays stand up for what they believe in.
But there is something especially vile about the resurgence of Nazism in America that may tempt you to go out and be part of the physical presence that confronts them. If this tracks with your way of thinking and feeling, I would encourage you to find out if there is a counter-protest planned in your area and make arrangements to join it.
You don’t need to do anything special. You need not make signs, nor engage in chanting or shouting when you get there. I get it. I too could not bring myself to do such things. Just being there, on the right side of the dividing line, is enough to make it clear to such hateful creatures that you and many others abhor what they are about.
The one thing you should not do is avoid such counter-protests out of concern that it will make you part of the problem, that standing up to Nazism somehow makes you just as bad as them.
As incredible as it may seem, more and more people are beginning to echo Donald Trump in finding equivalence between Nazis and anti-Nazis. In the minds of many otherwise sane and respectable people Nazis should not be responded to—ever. They should be allowed to rally, give insult, spread hate, and spew out their deranged views without protest, without the slightest peep from anyone who disagrees with them. To confront them where they are, in person, is the gravest trespass that any free-thinking person can commit. It is in fact so egregious that it makes the anti-Nazi, in aim, purpose, and deed the same as the Nazi. To go anywhere near the Nazi, according to these good Christian fellows, makes you morally indistinguishable from him. All hate is bad, and in protesting a group driven by race hate you become a member of a hate group yourself.
It is better, I suppose they would say, to limit your condemnation of Nazis to activities that can be performed from afar. When the Nazis are in the field, it is best to leave them the field. Making any effort to raise a voice contrary to theirs within the same space makes your division from them unseemly and much too graphic for the television cameras; it can only lead to more anger and despondency in the country, which (in some unclear, illogical, and indefinite way) makes what your group stands for as horrifying and harmful as what the Nazis stand for.
The bottom line, these same people seem to think, is that Nazis are bad, but they are a minority. It is best to let them alone when they rally in public. If we treat them as a weak and marginal force in American politics—and we must dismiss the evidence that their numbers and influence are growing as being still too insignificant to matter—they will fade into the background. But whatever you do, don’t go near them, don’t make a fuss, don’t stir up trouble (and trouble is never stirred until you show up), don’t form or encourage counter-demonstrations; it will only make you the same as them.
Now this is the most cowardly, idiotic, timorous, debased, and asinine thinking that could possibly emerge in a mind not actually insane. It could only be seriously considered by those who have swallowed the inherent stupidity and swinishness of Trumpism. Do not be put off involving yourself in a protest or counter-protest because you think it will make you no better than Nazis.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.