This place matters

This place matters

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ignoring the wolves at our doors

I saw something that shocked me today. A Facebook friend posted an article from The Daily Stormer about Heather Heyer, the woman murdered for participating in an anti-Nazi protest, titled "Woman killed in road rage incident was a fat, childless 32-year old slut." The headline itself wasn't the thing I found shocking. I am sure tons of hate sites ran similar stories today. What I found shocking was that other people were surprised by this.
And that made me realize I've been harboring a hideous, toxic secret. For years the prevailing online wisdom has been to ignore the trolls. Don't reward the online Nazis and white supremacists with attention. It's wisdom along the lines of "don't engage the trolls" and "don't read the comments."
That seemed like a good idea at the time. But now that the knives are out, I realize that I've kind of known about the Nazis hanging out in the bowels of the Internet for years and I guess I thought everybody else knew too.
The Huffington Post ran this story today about a televised exchange between CNN's Symone Sanders and conservative politician Ken Cuccinelli. The two were brought on to discuss the events in Charlottesville this weekend. At one point in the conversation Sanders interrupts Cuccinelli's attempt to justify the actions of the Nazis, and Cuccinelli says "Will you just shut up and let me finish, Symone?" 
Well Sanders just lets him have it, saying "Under no circumstances do you get to speak to me in that manner. You should exhibit some decorum. And understand that you were trying to defend and excuse white supremacy on this program. And under no circumstances will I sit by while that happens." 

If you followed the conventional wisdom and didn't read the comments, you wouldn't know that the vast, vast majority of the comments attacked Sanders. She was a "typical" bobble-headed Black woman. One user said that Sanders had demonstrated everything that was bad about "these people," and another blamed "people like her" for the events in Charlottesville. There were attacks on her race and attacks on her gender and attacks on the Left and there was vitriol and hate. HuffPost has since closed the article to comments.
And the thing is, these commenters could be anyone. They could be an ER doctor. A hiring manager. The guy in the next cubicle. 
They could be cops.
I should have told you about these people. I should have told you how often you can find them spouting off their racial hatred in YouTube comments sections and on news websites and on homegrown forums where they meet and collaborate with other hateful people.
I should have told you about the forum on Reddit, the one with hundreds of thousands of followers, the one where men who could be your coworkers or neighbors how worthless women are, how they are only good for one thing, and how to get that thing come rape or high water. I should have told you how many of these people there are. I should have told you that women have to interact with them every day. How they are raising their sons to be just as hateful as them. I should have said. 


I should have told you about 4chan, the asshole of the Internet, where Nazis and white supremacists scheme and plot and claim when they are called out that they are only joking. That they are doing a "social experiment." 
I should have told you about the Nazis. Then maybe you wouldn't think that we live in a post-racial America. That racism is over and the pendulum is swinging too far in the other direction. If I'd told you sooner about the Nazis you'd understand that people aren't just being oversensitive when they talk about systemic racism - maybe you'd know that there are millions of racist dirtbags hiding in every corner of the Internet. Maybe if you read their words you'd understand.
I should have read the comments. I shouldn't have told you not to read the comments. I shouldn't have ignored them. I shouldn't have let you ignore them. I should have said. 
I should have said.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

To the conservatives I love

Just now at least one person is dead and another nineteen are injured in Charlottesville, Virginia today after a car plowed into a group of anti-racism protesters, a cowardly act of terrorism.
Those protesters were there to speak up against what's being called the largest gathering of white nationalists in a decade, and those white nationalists are doing this in YOUR name. Are you going to let them?
They're calling their event "Unite the Right." You see, these un-American fascists are sure that all good conservatives believe that America is "fundamentally a white man's country," and that all conservatives should support white people taking the country back. Last night, they marched through the streets chanting Nazi slogans and performing the Nazi salute. See, even though millions of Americans served, and hundreds of thousands died to destroy Nazism, these new American Nazis think that all conservatives want to be "united" with them. When they say "unite the right," what they're really saying is "we assume other conservatives are just as hateful as we are." 
But you're not. I know you're not! I know we don't see eye-to-eye on a lot, but we both know that Nazism is evil and racial violence is wrong. We all know that conservatism and Nazism should be mutually exclusive, that hatred of, violence against people based on their skin color or religion, is evil. These Nazis represent everything America isn't and they want you to unite with them.
Now is the time for you, for all of us to say that enough is enough. No more violence in the name of conservatism. No more hate in the name of patriotism. You and I might not agree on much but we do agree that America, in the words of the great Republican Abraham Lincoln is a great nation, "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."
Don't let Nazis speak for you. Speak out against their violent agendas. Join your voices with other conservatives who don't want violent hate groups to steal their voices. Speak out against racism and hatred. Call your congressmen and local government officials and let them know that conservatives hate racism too. Consider donating to the NAACP - they're not some far-left liberal group; they're America's oldest civil rights organization, formed by patriotic Americans of many political ideologies. If you're the religious sort, you could call some Charlotteville churches, see what they're doing to stop the violence and what you can do to help. 
Or you could just... listen, when people say they're afraid. Instead of getting mad at people who see conservatism as racist, get mad at the racist conservatives giving you a bad name. Show kindness and compassion to everybody, in the hopes your kindness and compassion ripple out and make America a kinder and more compassionate place. Don't let the evil ones steal your voice. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The triumphant return

Okay, I realize it has been a stupid long time. We moved, you see, and then there was the two week grad school residency. And then there was all the unpacking and cleaning, and god these things look filthy now that we live in a place that light can reach. 
One of the speakers at my residency this year was the poet Dexter L Booth. Guy's amazing. And his talk was titled Of the Same Earth: Race, Poetry, and Absurdity in America. He talked about how often artists use absurdity to face the otherwise un-facable. He told us that the hyper-violence of old timey cartoon shows is a product of the horrors of World War I; people who faced those horrors went home and recreated those horrors as wildly absurd comedy. 
He gave us this poetry prompt, asked us to write poems about some unusual current events. I got the story of the man stuck inside the ATM. I'm no poet, god knows, but I don't hate what I came up with.

I only wanted to withdraw money
I didn't intend to withdraw other people's problems. 
You think you've got it bad, huh,
being stuck inside an ATM?
Way I see it you are the one 
sitting on a pile of money,
whining about "oh poor me,
I'm stuck in a big box of money."
And I tell you what, Mister Woe Is Me,
I have to WORK for my money
Yeah, so people have to work for what they've got.
Unlike you
sitting on a pile of cash talking about "oh poor me", "oh I'm stuck in here with all this money," "boo hoo I've been here for hours and I'm running out of oxygen." 
Whining about "let me out."
Well I'll tell you what, Mister Money Box,
I never had anything handed to me my entire life
cept this note.
cept other people's problems.


ShareThis