Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of the clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia when a Unite the Right Rally supposedly in defense of “sacred” Confederate monuments faced off against anti-racist and, yes, anti-fascist counter demonstrators. Klansmen, neo-Nazis, self-appointed patriot militia, Proud Boys, and Two Percenters strutted their stuff carrying tiki torches and shouting slogans like “We will not be replaced!” The right wingers taunted and attacked peaceful counter protestors and avowed black clad Anti-fa fought back. Police either stood aside or sometimes seemed to cooperate with the thugs. Scores were injured in street fighting, and 32 year old Heather Heyer was killed when a car rammed through a crowd of anti-racists trying to block the path of the white nationalist marchers.
In some ways the events in Charlottesville were a preview of the insurrectionary siege of the Capitol on January 6 which included members of many of the same groups urged on by the same leaders. And lest we think the threat has passed just this week Proud Boys, Trumpist fan boys, and Christian dominists came to Portland specifically to attack Black Lives Matter supporters and the Anti-fa who have long been a fixture in that city. Two days of street brawls went on as the local police again stood aside. Police there have been defiant of city leaders who have been trying to heal wounds from violent clashes last year.
The day after the Charlottesville confrontations, I spoke at a hastily called community vigil at the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry. After remembering the blood sacrifice of anti-fascist hero Heather Heyer, I said that it fell to me to be the voice of anger and outrage. I was not there to lead a chorus of Kumbaya. I recalled that earlier in the day I had read remarks by Black scholar and activist Cornel West who was with religious leaders on both Friday night when the marching Nazis threatened the church where they gathered and on Saturday when they placed themselves around the scheduled park rallying point to block access to the Unite the Right marchers. The ministers were confronted and menaced with imminent attack unprotected by police who had withdrawn. “The antifascists, and then, crucial, the anarchists, because they saved our lives, actually. We would have been completely crushed, and I’ll never forget that.” West said. These are the same anti-fascists that the Cheeto-in-Charge and far too much of the media held to be equally guilty for the violence.The Old Man at the roadside candlelight vigil following the rally on the ground of the Tree of Life UU Congregation in McHenry where more than 200 gathered on short notice.
Then I read this:
Munich and Charlottesville
August 13, 2017
So is this how it felt on the streets of Munich
when the strutting Brown Shirts
in their polished jackboots,
Sam Browne belts, and scarlet arm bands
faced the scruffy Commies
in their cloth caps
and shirtsleeves rolled up
and battled in the beerhalls,
parks and streets.
All of the good people, the nice people
cowered behind closed doors
and wished it would go away—
all of the liberals, the Catholics,
the new-bred pacifists of the Great War,
the professors and doctors,
editors and intellectuals,
the Social Democrats,
even—my God!—the Jews
who had not gone Red—
a pox on both your houses they solemnly intoned.
Hey, buddy, in retrospect those damn Bolshies
look pretty good,
like heroes even.
Things look a little different in Charlottesville,
in brilliant color not grainy black and white
and the Fascists can’t agree on a
Boy Scout uniform and array themselves
golf shirts and khakis, rainbow Klan hoods,
biker black and studs, and strutting camo.
But the smell, you know, that stench,
is just the same.
The question is—do you dare be a Red today
or will you close your doors
and go back to your game consoles
and cat videos.
Which will it be, buddy?