Several young street merchants approached my friend offering knock-off designer bags in Taiwan. “Same! Same! But different…” Speaking in a learned language, these young kids were candidly expressing a concept the President of the United States does not understand: false equivalence.
If you have been living under a rock (or perhaps on Indian Point, or camping somewhere off the grid, or snug in your basement watching Netflix), you have saved yourself the horror of watching the racist Nazi BS south of the border. Spoiler alert: we are about to end your blissful ignorance. Take a swig of your margarita and let’s dive in.
The quick recap is that August 11 and 12 marked a two-day revival of neo-Nazi extremist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia. The group began with a protest against the removal of a Confederate statue. The demonstration ended with a murder and white nationalists CARRYING TORCHES yelling blatantly fascist and racist slurs: “blood and soil,” (invoking the Nazi philosophy “Blut und Boden”); “Jews will not replace us”; “Go the f*** back to Africa” and “F*** you fa**ots”.
As a quick aside: I realize this is a community paper. As I sit at my computer now, I contemplate removing these hateful words, the crass references to violent and offensive language. Unfortunately, white washing this event, this hate, and this violence, does not make it go away. We need to witness the magnitude of what is happening and see it for exactly what it is.
Back to the States. The newly minted President of the United States clearly has a situation. A situation that is monumentally terrifying and that calls out for action. He addressed the situation by condemning violence – ON BOTH SIDES. Jaw drop.
Nazis vs. People against Nazis. Seems like a clear-cut bad guy vs. good guy scenario, right?
Voldemort vs. Harry Potter.
Cancer vs. Patient.
Mosquitos vs. Deep Riverite.
Apparently, Trump did not think so. His staff did. Trump, who wastes no time in condemning anything (the news, the London Mayor, the FBI, Amazon.ca), did his best to avoid condemning a race-based protest. Instead, he likened the self-proclaimed ethnic cleansing group with the citizens who showed-up to protest hate.
Violent Hate Groups cannot be equivocated to those who defend themselves and others against violent hate groups. Don’t take it from me, ask a veteran.
We can break it down logically as well. We can find some similarities between the groups. Both involved people. Both groups attended at the same location. Both were yelling. The scene became violent. This does not make both groups equally blameworthy. Virginia Senator Kaine identified the difference: the violence “was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts.”
In any conflict, we can find some similarities. More level heads and clearer minds can and should identify when one of the parties has crossed the line. Identifying, addressing and condemning morally blameworthy acts is particularly important for (a) a world leader to do (b) in a time of crisis, and importantly (c) any time when Nazis are involved.
The responsibility to loudly, publicly denounce and decry hate speech does not stop at the feet of a world leader. It extends to the public, to the cities where hate is, and to the doorsteps of little towns where we hear about it. Last week, comedian Tina Fey sarcastically joked that we should drown our outrage in sheetcake. The satire was lost on some, and so the point must be made clear. Simple. No matter who or where we are, we do not tolerate Nazis. We need to loudly encourage those who defend against hate.
Some things are simple: simple enough for kids to understand. Lex Luther and Superman are both superheroes, of course. In that way they are the same. Their differences, however, cannot be underplayed. We condemn Lex Luther’s evil attacks on innocent people. We support Superman’s defence of humanity.