I don't know what to tell you.
Normally we use this space to talk about movies and comics, maybe a book we read. But, at the moment, we're way past normal. Or, at least, the past year has stripped away the veneer of how we thought things worked and we're now dealing with what we always kind of knew was out there, but just didn't show it's face.
That's wrong, too. It did. It's all over twitter and has been boiling over in the comments on legitimate news sites and in our facebook feed from people we used to know in high school.
It's always there, from our complacence in the face of the social inequities we see (and tell ourselves nice creation myths rather than grappling with multi-generational issues), to legislation intended to discriminate, to how we think about perpetually skewed law-enforcement records to how we whisper certain words. I'm as white a cracker as you're going to find. I might as well have "privilege" stamped across my forehead, and I see this stuff everywhere, and I've seen it defended and warped and refracted through appropriated slogans and an unending sea of false equivalencies that don't hold up to the slightest examination. And, because I'm coming from a place of privilege, I have to accept that I'm only seeing a fraction of it.
What's surprised us, what knocked us flat on our backs, was less the rise of the rebranded Nazis of the Alt-Right - which I'll be honest, I also cannot f'ing believe - but that our friends and family have made apologies for anyone who showed up in Charlottesville to participate. That we're told we're being unreasonable for saying "hey, we have a Nazi problem".
"They can't *really* be Nazis," we're told. Somehow reacting with horror and anger to White Supremacists is an unfair stance. And this is literally, to me, the most cartoonishly surreal part of the entire enterprise. That people, whom I don't think would ever pick up a torch or put on a white golf shirt and khakis, would cry foul and tell you that you're letting them down for being so judgmental and condemning "all conservatives" - when that is clearly *not* what you're doing, unless that person is realizing something about themselves and hasn't processed it quite yet.
We're picking sides now. While we're still going to work and buying stuff online and going to movies and nothing looks that different today than it did five years ago and we still have some really good TV to pick from, we're having our option to let things go or be polite removed for us by the very people who seem surprised anyone is taking umbrage.
People carried Nazi flags, chanted White Supremacist slogans. They beat people and killed someone. In a bizarre twist, they took saying anything about it, took the voices of those who showed up to argue the point as somehow unfair. Like almost everything the Alt-Right has accused anyone nearing Center of doing - these snowflakes cried when someone stood up and said no.
We're picking sides. We're going to have to figure out how to say "no" when the moment comes.
I am cheered by a few things:
- This was the best the White Nationalists could muster from across the country. A small contingent of pasty-faced dopes, many of whom were identified and have a long life of legal challenges and name changes ahead of them and realizing prison would be a deeply bad place for them to wind up.
- Leaders of all types have responded with vigor and anger, from Apple donating millions to worthy causes, to the two Bushes releasing a public statement condemning the same rot 41 went to war to fight. To the White House having to abandon their business council after high profile CEO's public abandoned the group.
- On a national level, the body is responding by creating anti-bodies. None of these marches will occur again without vigorous opposition.
- Local politicians are supporting the end to the public symbols that represent the causes the Alt-Right and White Heritage groups support. Statues are finally coming down. Street names and public spaces are being renamed.
I've lived in the same town as Alex Jones and the heart of Infowars long enough to see the closed logic loop of the sad-boy who is so bad at anything else that he begins believing his own fiction. There's no reasoning here anymore than one does with the proud Flat-Earther.
It's exhausting. If the dopes with their Pier 1 torches and Dockers weren't so busy writing themselves as heroes of some hacky story of personal glory, they'd bother to Google or comparison shop their info. It's so much easier to believe you're part of a shadow war with code words and secret enemies and one of the few who gets what's *really* happening than it is to overcome your own messed diaper of self-pity.
The thing is...
How the living hell did these same people grow up in the same mass-culture, post WWII, and even begin to think they were the good guys? How do you grow up with Indiana Jones fighting Nazis left and right and Star Wars movies pretty damn clearly about Space Nazis and the new movies about The Return of Space Nazis, and not know that you're not on the wrong side?
A common refrain in the comics web-o-sphere folks complaining about "politicizing" comics. But when Jack Kirby was first drawing Captain America, we hadn't yet entered WWII. We had Nazis in our streets. I think most of us know this. And a lot of us who idolize King Kirby know - Jack scared off Nazis who came to his office, then promptly enlisted and as PFC Jack Kirby, went and fought some goddamn Nazis.
Heads up, young people deciding if there are some fine people among our local base of White Supremacists - Hydra in those Marvel movies are *not* the good guys. Steve Rogers positively hates those guys. Be like Steve Rogers.
But it wasn't just our fictional childhood and adulthood favorites who had it in for these guys.
I could run off a list of Hollywood types who went and fought in Europe, Africa and the Pacific, but I can also name my own grandfather who dropped into Normandy on a glider.
For a bunch of guys who want to talk about heritage and history, they don't seem to like the way history worked out. I like a good lost cause, too, but I usually reserve that for choosing a baseball team to support, not throwing in with the least impressive people America's got to offer.
And when those same mediocrities start killing people, like they did in Chartlottesville, we're way past due for an end to giving them their room and hoping they calm down or just get out of the way. Now's the time to shine brighter.