I don’t mean “Nazis” in the abstract racist sense. I mean actual, genuine, swastika bearing white supremacists, proudly shouting Nazi slogans. They’re not even wearing hoods. They are out in the open, wearing baseball hats that say “make America great again.”
They are angry, they are racist, and they are so emboldened by the current president (who they voted for and whose election they see as a direct validation of their xenophobic principles) that they are marching with assault rifles in broad daylight.
It’s chilling. We’ve seen this before. It was a major theme of World War Two, and it is a scarily similar scenario to what Margaret Atwood imagined led to the establishment in the US of the theocratic regime Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale. We just got a glimpse into the birth of what was supposed to be dystopian, post apocalyptic fiction.
But this is not fiction. This is a real thing.
The marches on Saturday came after a prelude on Friday night, when hundreds of the “Alt Right” took literal flaming torches to a university campus. They clearly had a lot of aggression to deal with, and it quickly erupted into violence.
How did it come to this? It’s a long story. Racial tension has always been a major issue in American politics and society, right from the beginning. They fought a civil war. The slavers lost. In many cities in the south, statues commemorating the generals who fought for oppression stand in public parks. This is clearly pretty offensive to the descendants of those slaves who live there now, and who still find themselves facing systematic oppression and institutionalised racism in the form of police violence. To look at someone who fought a war to keep your ancestors as slaves, and to know that they hold a cherished and respected position in your town, while your friends are being shot to death by the police who are meant to protect them, on a near daily basis, is a bitter pill. 2,145 people have been shot and killed by police since Jan. 1, 2015.
So some councils, such as Charlottesville, are voting to remove the statues, and change the names of things like “Lee Park” (named after confederate General Robert E. Lee – who led much of the battle for Southern secession, before surrendering) to “Emancipation Park”.
This was the catalyst for the events over the weekend. That’s what brought the Nazis to the streets. It took a lot to get there of course, but that was the spark that set it off.
The build-up has been steadily intensifying over recent years. You can trace the modern movement back to 1992. After the officers who beat Dr Rodney King were acquitted of all charges, Charles Muhammad of the Nation of Islam asked, “How many more Rodney Kings do there have to be?”
If anything, as police have become more militarised, it has gotten worse. Behind the recognisable names of Philando Castile, Mike Brown, Tamir rice Terence Crutcher and Alton Sterling, are a staggering list of anonymous people whose names escaped the media cycle. They are simply too many to fit into a news bulletin.
So the rise in the number of unarmed black Americans being killed by police officers has led to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Because that is something that apparently needs to be said. This has since given rise to the conservative counter-movement, with their own tautological catchphrase “All Lives Matter”.
Of course All Lives Matter. No one said they don’t. The point is that police in the US don’t go around killing unarmed white people the way they do kill unarmed black people. That’s why it needs to be emphasised. But the people in Charlottesville weren’t even just shouting “All lives matter”. They were literally shouting, “Black lives don’t matter”: