Saturday, August 13, 2022

Charlottesville When the Alt Right Lit a Fuse—Murfin Verse

The united right in Charlottesville five years ago included Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, groups from the so-called Alt-Right, and militia members, some of them armed--the same groups that were the spear point of the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol and who are now calling for civil war because their Godfather is being "persecuted" for crimes he most certainly committed.

The fifth anniversary of the White Riot known as the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia came and went on Thursday August 11 with remarkably little fanfare.  Strange because violent rampage was the introduction of an empowered white nationalist movement openly hoping to become a spark to a new civil war.  Many of the players at the January 6, 2021 attempted coup at the Capitol in Washington were on hand for the previewneo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen, 2 Percenters, Oathkeepers, and assorted self-proclaimed militia groups.  The Proud Boys rose to prominence there still masquerading as a “European Heritage civil rights group” and decked out in preppy khakis and polo shirts instead of the camo and body armor that they wore to the Siege of the Capitol.  And it was all approved with a wink-and-a-nod by former Cheeto-in-Charge himself.  “Very fine people, he said.

Previous attempts to unite for a public display of power had largely fizzled when faced with organized opposition and sectarian feuding between leaders each of whom saw himself as a potential Führer.  But the call to defend a “noble heritage” by protesting the removal of Confederate Monuments, especially a Robert E. Lee equestrian monument in a central park.

A young Black woman fearlessly challenged hood wearing Klansmen,  Could we do the same?

In response to the threat local leaders, Civil Rights Movement and Black Lives Matter groups, religious leaders, progressives and radicals spanning the Antifa movement, socialists and social democrats, Marxists, anarchists and members of my old union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) rallied as counter-protesters, many vowing to prevent a planned march from reaching its announced goal, the Lee monument.

32 year old anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer gave he life in the struggle.  She will not be the last.

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 Antifa 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.

Anarchists, antifa, and members of the Industrial Workers of the World, (IWW) defended and protected clergy attempting to block White nationalist from their rallying point around a statue of Robert E. Lee.  The Black public intellectual Cornel West--seen upper right in the suit and sunglasses--bluntly reported that the Anti-fa "saved our lives."

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 a 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? 

—Patrick Murfin 



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