Charlottesville goes down in history now. Once again we have people on both sides hell-bent on confrontation–shouting, raging,… you can almost hear their blood boiling as fists are clenched, the curses fly, and the trigger fingers start itching.
What an exercise in futility! The anitfas are not going to change anyone’s mind this way. They are just going to make more people on the margins become actively sympathetic to the alt-right. We all know that the good people of Charlottesville did not want to let a white nationalist march go unchallenged, but where does this kind of angry challenge get us? Innocent people dead and injured.
Ideally, rational people would sit down and talk about their differences and come to a way of working them out. But there comes a time when reason is absent, when people are so brainwashed, so ignorant, or so worked up they can’t think straight. What do you do then?
Suppose someone stands up in a meeting and says something outrageous, like “We should kill all the _________” (fill in the group of your choice). There are several options for how to deal with it:
1) ignore it.
2) suppress it. We are loath to do that in our country because of the First Amendment.
3) shout them down. That’s what the counter-protesters were trying to do in Charlottesville.
4) indicate your disapproval publically but silently. Stand up in the meeting and turn your back. Line the march with counter-protesters but silently fold your arms, shake your heads.
The fourth way is the best and is something I’ve heard the Quakers sometimes do. The third will almost surely lead to increasingly violent conflicts and ultimately deaths. It breathes oxygen into a smoldering fire. The second way has its place, and every country in the world does outlaw certain kinds of speech, but this will lead to underground movements espousing forbidden causes. The first runs the risk of outrageous viewpoints spreading, which also is the case with the third.
This issue of the Confederate monuments is a difficult one. Of course Robert E. Lee was on the wrong side of history, defending a horrible institution, but is there a better way to go about this than rubbing the noses of the soldiers’ descendents in their defeat?
How about a competition to commemorate all sides in the War Between the States—more monuments to be placed near Lee’s, representing slavery, emancipation and most importantly, reconciliation. I believe the leaders of Charlottesville are wise enough to realize that simply telling the alt-right to “Go home!” as the governor of Virginia did is not the answer. They ARE home and we have to live with them, just as they have to live with us.