Like many people around the country, I’ve been upset by the violent events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend. When white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and the Alt-Right descended upon the city to preach their own brand of hatred and bigotry, violence erupted resulting in many being injured and the death of three people including Heather Heyer.
Before the wounds of Charlottesville have even begun to heal, the painful feeling was only exacerbated by the President Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn the violence perpetrated by his supporters. A few days after reading a half-assed generic statement from a teleprompter, he showed his true colors yesterday when he coined the term “Alt-Left” and refused to condemn the violent white supremacists at Charlottesville. He cited that both sides were to blame and that he demanded he have all the facts before making any kind of statement.
The incident at Charlottesville had occurred 72 hours before his press conference yesterday, but Trump still insisted on not issuing a formal statement until he felt satisfied that he had all the facts. Beyond what he did say about the (non-existent) “Alt-Left” going to the protest armed and without a permit, it is also troubling to consider what was not said. Trump, the man who is currently holding the highest office in the country, did not sincerely vocalize any condemnation of his supporters for the chaos and madness they caused.
Trump’s psyche has not been hard to understand. In his world, there is no “right” and no “wrong.” His assessment about your value to him is only determined by how well you like him. If you praise and support his actions and words, you are “good” and deserving of his respect and attention. If you are critical of him, or simply did not vote for him, you are “bad.”
He has exemplified this view countless times, but yesterday’s press conference was the worst. Reporters and members of the press were asking simple questions about Trump’s feelings about the Charlottesville violence. During this, Trump pointed aggressively at them calling them fake, questioning their integrity and honesty as reporters and journalists, and made statements aligned himself with the violent rhetoric and actions of his reporters in Charlottesville. By saying that both sides were to blame, he made a clear statement comparing violent Neo-Nazis to people who wish not to be hurt by violent Neo-Nazis.
The Charlottesville violence and death of Heather Heyer hit me so hard. Since then, within the last few days, I still haven’t really found my balance yet. Like many people, I couldn’t stop looking at the news. Videos of fights and photos of armed racists were all over my social media feeds. It was inescapable. As I watched video footage of unknown militias marching, men holding shields with white nationalist imagery chanting “fuck you faggots,” and Neo-Nazis proudly wearing the swastika.
As I watched this, I felt a fear I hadn’t felt since the 9/11 attacks. Our country has gone through some difficult times over the last 16 years. However, at no point did I ever fear for my safety, the well-being of my friends and family, and the security of this country. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be optimistic about where we are going. And that is because I have no idea where this country is going. Since Donald Trump’s election win last November, our state of affairs have steadily declined. The threat of political violence is always present to the point where this insane discourse is becoming normalized.
The fear and anger I have felt since Saturday has put me in a place I do not like to be. Reading through all the commentary and posts on social media, I got caught in the mire of the sickening depravity that is the Alt-Right’s social media presence. I started engaging with white supremacists online shaming them for advocating additional violence and murder. I knew you couldn’t reason with these people, so my goal was to call them out for their asinine behavior and holding them accountable.
I quickly realized how naïve that was. By engaging with this scum, I had opened myself to receiving targeted threats of violence, death threats, called names aimed at my masculinity, and other targeted attacks.
Frankly, it was strange and fascinating. I took their comments about committing murder and laughing at the death of Heather Heyer seriously, but I could not take the people behind those words seriously. All of these disgusting people had one thing in common beyond their hateful rhetoric: they are all cowards who hide behind monikers and Pepe avatars. They are afraid to show themselves as they spew their garbage. They hide behind their racist frog meme as they call you faggot and make statements about how afraid you are to meet them. Real tough talk coming from someone hiding behind a cartoon.
It got to a point where I found the exchanges fascinating and comical. I would call out someone’s racism and that they were too afraid to show their true selves. And the only thing that would happen is that they would send me some meme implying committing violence or murder against me or others. Or that they would send their supporters from multiple states to come find me. No matter how you looked at it, they were just losers throwing cartoons at me. One even used my picture as their profile picture thus making me the representative face of their vitriol because they are too frightened to use their own.
These disgusting social media fiends are actually afraid. They hide behind their memes out of fear of being “doxxed” (term to describe when a person’s identity and contact information has been discovered and shared). When doxxed, their hatred is shown to their family, schools, and places of employment who will then respond appropriately. These racists don’t want to lose their jobs or be expelled, so they use anonymity as their only weapon.
As I engaged further, I learned so much. In addition to the psychology of these pathetic losers, I also learned some of their tactics they use to further spread hate. In the spirit that these people are truly frightened of being discovered, I noticed that most of the users I engaged with would change their identities every day or two. This included changing their profile picture, profile name, and social media handle in order to make it harder to trace their hateful rhetoric. To do so properly, you would have to track them with databases and a lot of screenshots. But, who has the time to follow racists assholes (besides me for the few days that I did).
When I got bogged down with this over the weekend, I spent a few days treading through their shit. I didn’t care about the threats of attacks. I was on a search and destroy mission. My goal was to engage these people, discover who they were, and make them pay. Now, I don’t know how to dox someone properly. I’m not a hacker. That’s how this stuff gets done. But, I was able to find out who one of the guys was and called his university’s police to report the violent threats he was making in relation to the Charlottesville.
I tried to tell myself that taking down one of the people was worth it. However, I know that isn’t the case. Engaging with anonymous assholes on social media is the not an effective way to deal with what is happening right now. We are all still healing from this weekend and processing what is happening. Between the violent white supremacist gathering and Trump’s statements (or lack thereof), it is easy to get emotional and lost in confusion.
Never in a million years would I be telling myself in 2017 that this country needs to stand together to take down literal Nazis. Trump and his administration has emboldened a movement with a specific agenda. An agenda that says that racial purity is required to make this country better. And many of them want to achieve this through violence.
The most frustrating aspect of their movement is their quickness to play victim when it is convenient. They will gather, carry tiki torches symbolizing torches and pitchforks, claim their white heritage gives them dominance over this land, and vocalize that any non-white people, homosexuals, and women should submit to their will. However, stand up to them and they cower by claiming the legality of their actions.
They remind me of those kids who want to get a reaction out of someone by hovering their hands over the other person and saying “I’m not touching you. I’m not touching you. You can’t get mad because I’m not touching you!” And the moment that you smack away their hand for invading their personal space, they cry and play the victim as they condemn you for your reaction. So when these white supremacists gather to saying awful, violent things about non-white people and they are met with resistance, they cry that they were only gathering peacefully and that the antifas broke the law. They say the resistance didn’t have a permit or that they are violating their freedom of speech. They deflect, pass blame, and change the narrative to make sure, in their minds, that they are legally protected. Their goal is to antagonize someone so much that their reaction can be spun to reflect their narrative, embolden their supporters, and gather centrist support who are too stupid to see the difference.
There can be no room for centrists. If you are someone of sound body and mind watching the violence unfolding on your television or phone and you cannot tell the difference between those who advocate violence and those who wish to live free from violence, then you are a complete fucking moron that is ruining this country. Much like the actual Nazis in the Third Reich, the Nazis in Charlottesville are trying to appeal to centrists. Their movement, which started out as a fringe before picking up mainstream support, relies on recruiting people on the fence. Before, they were too weak to take on the mainstream. So, to gain strength, they rely on the stupid who cannot pick a side. Slowly one by one until they are now a force that must be dealt with seriously.
In 1973, Boscoe released their only studio album. Initially only pressing 500 copies, their eponymous studio debut became a lost record of the South Side of Chicago’s rich culture of black music. Such a profound musical statemen remained obscure until being reissued by Numero Group in 2007. That is when I bought my copy. A decade later after my purchase and 44 years after recording the album, the message remains as relevant today as ever.
“Writin’ On the Wall,” running over eight minutes, is a powerful condemnation to those who cannot see for themselves what is happening. While the context of the recording in 1973 was about the passing of Malcom X, the message of black America struggling for peace still carries on. As white supremacists battled against Black Lives Matters protestors and chanting for their death, it is so difficult for me to understand how someone cannot see the truth when it is right in front of them. And for our political leaders to carry a message that “both sides” are responsible for our current violent discourse, it only makes the situation worse.
We’re still healing from Charlotte and I don’t know what to do. As ready as I am to fight, I am also afraid of what the next day will bring. And I feel that way because things will only get worse before they get better. I know where I stand and my enemy knows where they stand, but people who stand in the middle silently are the ones who will shift the direction this nation will go. And if they can’t see the writing on the wall, then goddamn them.