We’ll never all agree on everything, and who would want to? Our vast array of different opinions are what make you all so interesting (your taste for mayonnaise is what makes you so disgusting). Differences of opinion drive meaningful conversation and make our communities strong. There are, however, a few things that we probably can agree on, like what the left lane is for, and that Prince was a genius.
Universal common ground is hard to come by, but I like to think that we’re all pretty much on the same page about what happened in Charlottesville over the weekend. Of course I also like to think that the United States of America wouldn’t elect a Nazi sympathizer as president. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I live beneath a stone. Maybe we should talk about this.
Hating Nazis is right up there with bald eagles and apple pie as fundamental tenets of wholesome Americanism, and that fact is as practical as it is symbolic. It was our role in defeating this ideology in World War II that laid the groundwork for the US to emerge as an economic and diplomatic superpower. It’s the foundation of our position in the world for the last three generations. Hell, even Orrin Hatch is unequivocal:
We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home. -OGH
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) August 12, 2017
Here, we have an opportunity for common ground: fuck Nazis. If nothing else, we can agree on that, right? Speaking out against Nazism doesn’t make you a bad conservative, and voting for Donald Trump in the last election doesn’t make you a Nazi. Agreeing on this doesn’t mean that we can’t disagree about every other single thing on earth, like heath care, education, guns, mayonnaise, public land, oil, nuclear oblivion, coal, or emails of any stripe. Let’s keep fighting about all of that, because somewhere in the middle probably lies the truth. But on Nazis let’s skip the gray area. Fuck Nazis. That’s baseline.
And here’s where you might become incredulous, because this is my thesis: Nazis are our safe space. It’s one thing that we can all agree on, that we can all be comfortable with – the fact that White Nationalism and the Nazi party have no business on American soil.*
This is important. It’s a pretty low bar but we have, with Nazism, established a position from which we can start talking about race in America without dissonance on square one. (Even Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions have acknowledged that these guys are terrorists.) From here, we can start having the more difficult, more meaningful conversations.
American Nazism is out in the open now. Well-meaning-but-squeamish white people have seen, now, what people of color, Jews, Muslims, and the LGBTQ community have known since they were born: that a degree of racism and white supremacy is woven into the fabric of our nation. Remember that the riots in Charlottesville began over the decommissioning of a statue of Robert E Lee and migrated to a visage of scrivener/slaver Thomas Jefferson, and that this country was built, both figuratively and literally, on the backs of slaves. Like it or not, this is a part of who we are.
Extracting race inequality from class, from immigration, from policing, from education, from any tenet of American life is not something that is going to happen overnight. It’s not something that we’re going to agree on every step of the way. But now it’s unavoidable, undeniable. To look away from what we saw this weekend is beyond convenience and privilege; it’s a willing indifference not only to the consistent, pervasive injustices that minorities live with every day, but to an unambiguous assault on the sanctity of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is not something we can deny. This is not something we can ignore. And we can start the conversation from common ground: fuck Nazis.
Agreeing that Nazis can go fuck themselves is not enough. It’s preaching to the choir, and we’re all singing that refrain. Non-Nazi white folks need to take the next step and confront the reality that White Nationalist ideologies and Nazi pride parades cannot exist without some level of tacit approval (you may know it as “I’m not a Nazi, and I really try not to be political, and I’m really busy with work, and . . .”). Pursuit of the egalitarian society that rests at the heart of American ideals begins with the acknowledgement that we do not currently live in one.
Examining our own racism is uncomfortable. I love the idea that I harbor no prejudices, but the fact is that in a racial society like the United States, that’s simply not possible. At least I’m not a Nazi, and neither are you (or you probably would have stopped reading by now). We’re imperfect Americans, and being better starts with recognizing that we have a problem.
And so this is a call to action, I guess. Not to continue sharing WashPo editorials and Raw Story pseudonews, but to take a moment and consider what you can do to fight Nazism at the environmental level. Condemning what happened in Charlottesville is as essential as it is easy. The work comes with with self-reflection and difficult conversations about what more we can do.
*If that’s not something you can get behind, then, well, shit man. I don’t know.