Fear – by Amanda S. Green
It is alive and well and living in the United States. No, I’m not talking about fear of walking down the street at night because something bad might happen. I’m not even talking about a parent’s fear of letting her child play outside or walk home from school by himself because someone might report the child as being neglected. There is another type of fear rearing its ugly head right now. It’s not new but, thanks to the media and social media, it is more pervasive.
The fear I’m talking about is the fear of speaking your mind. No, I’m not talking about those on the extreme ends of the political spectrum. Yes, both sides have their extremists, whether they want to admit it or not. Those folks don’t seem to have any fear of letting their voices be heard long and hard. The ones I’m talking about are those who tend to fall in the middle of the political spectrum. It doesn’t matter if they identify themselves as liberal or conservative, libertarian or something else. These are the folks who don’t buy into either side lock and smoking barrel.
These are the people who would, in many cases, be the voices of reason. We might not agree with them, but we could discuss our differences without the conversation turning into a shouting match. Unfortunately, they are being silenced. No, not by the government but by those zealots on either side of the argument – and it doesn’t matter which argument.
At first, it was simply easier to walk away from the so-called discussions because it quickly became clear that those who said they wanted to discuss an issue didn’t. What they wanted was an echo chamber. There comes a point when you have to realize that no matter how well thought out your points might be, no matter how many facts you have to back your stance, there are people who aren’t interested.
But there are some issues where we can’t just step back. We remember Martin Niemöller and his words about the Nazis:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Right now, if you take to social media, you will most often see the above verse cited in response to what happened in Charlottesville. Those condemning the Neo-Nazis who marched that day, especially the ass who drove his car into the crowd, recite it in support of their cries to take away the right of those same Nazis to march or wear the swastika or, in some instances, to even speak their beliefs.
These same people have taken to social media to crow about how they have identified and “outed” those they identify as being “Nazis” in the march. In some instances, they have cost people their jobs. In another, Professor Kyle Quinn of the University of Arkansas was wrongly identified as one of the “torch bearers” in Charlottesville. He was attacked in social media, especially Twitter. His life was threatened. Fortunately for Quinn, not only was he NOT at the protest, those he worked with knew it. Even when it was shown he wasn’t there, the accusations that he is a racist continued, as did calls for him to be fired from his post with the university. Facts, you see, didn’t matter to those attacking him. Someone on their side said he was guilty so, by God, he was guilty and he needed to pay.
But it gets worse. We are told over and over again not to judge someone by their appearance. How many times have we heard this? So where is the condemnation from the Left for what to happened Joshua Witt from Colorado? Mr. Witt was stabbed because of his haircut. Yes, you read that right. His haircut. Witt had the misfortunate of styling his hair in a way some of the Neo-Nazis do. His crime, other than having the offending hair cut? None. He was, according to his version of events, getting out of his car when someone came up, asked if he was a Nazi. Then the guy stabbed him.
Witt isn’t the only one to be called out – or worse – for that particular hairstyle since Charlottesville. Singer Macklemore found himself being called out on social media for the same hairstyle. The kicker here? He’d changed his style months ago. But those attacking him couldn’t be bothered to check before striking out.
Am I saying I support the Neo-Nazis or any other white supremacy group? Not on your life. However, much as I hate it, they do have the right to assemble – as long as they follow the law. They have the right to say what they want, within some very limited legal definitions. We have the right to point and laugh.
Where myself, and so many others, get uncomfortable is when we see people advocating taking those rights away. It is a very slippery slope they are proposing we get on. If the government decides today to silence the Nazis, they have started on the road to silencing others. That is not what this country is about. If we silence the Nazis, the skinheads, the KKK or similar groups, who next?
This is where the fear comes in. It is much more than the fear of the slippery slope should the government decide it needs to start shutting down free speech, no matter how heinous the group might be. It is the fear of what our neighbors might do, be it through ignorance or misunderstanding or something much worse. We have a group of people who seem to think it is their duty – their right, if you will – to “out” those they don’t agree with. They don’t consider the consequences of their actions. All that matters to them is that they are on the “right” side.
They don’t consider what happens when they publicly proclaim someone is a Nazi and then that person loses their job. What if that person has a family and is the only one employed? What if that person, or someone in their family, has a serious illness and the insurance he had through that employer was what was helping keep them alive until they could receive the surgery or other treatment necessary to cure them?
Or, as in the case of Professor Quinn, what if they were innocent?
In so many ways, the actions of these anti-white supremacists remind me of what happened in Nazi Germany – and in the Soviet Union. Neighbors reported their neighbors for not being good little Nazis or Communists. An air of suspicion and paranoia ruled both Germany and the Soviet Union because you had to watch what you said and did, no matter where you were.
I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have free speech and allow those I don’t agree with the right to spout their hate and stupidity than to face the possibility of the government going the way of Germany and Italy in the 1930’s and 1940’s or the Soviet Union. For those who have so gleefully been pointing fingers and calling names – and I don’t care what side of the argument you’re on – consider this. What are you going to do when those fingers are pointed at you? Because, the time will come if you keep this up. Just as that snowball grows as it rolls down the side of the mountain and shit flows downhill, as one group is silenced, fingers will point to another and then another and then another until you find yourself the target.