Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What part of anti-fascist didn't you understand?

Image via New York Times.

Not long after retweeting (and then untweetting) an image of the Trump train evidently emulating the automobile of that murdering Nazi in Charlottesville to mow down the CNN mascot, Emperor Trump
showed up at Trump Tower to inform the press of a new executive order:
“I’ve just signed a new executive order to reform the nation’s badly broken infrastructure permitting process,” Trump announced, suggesting that his directive would streamline the process of approving constructions on highways.
But according to my source (the Mic Network), it was actually just rear-ending an order of 2015 from the Obama White House, revising the Federal Flood Risk Management Standard
ratcheting upwards the height requirements on federally funded infrastructures so that they might withstand the rising sea levels and more frequent, more extreme storms caused by climate change.
It's get to feel more and more as if Harry Lime is president, working to deregulate antibiotics so industry can be set free on the corpses of children. I have more and more difficulty understanding how we could have gotten here.

Anyhow, he couldn't refrain from making sure you know he didn't mean it yesterday when he came out, 48 hours too late, to name-check white supremacists and neo-Nazis as the guilty parties in Charlottesville horror. Now he's trotting out the whataboutism:
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say alt-right? Do they have a semblance of guilt?” Trump asked of the counter-protesters at the Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. “What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands? Do they have a problem? I think they do.”
I want to stop here, to take that question a little bit seriously. Is anybody wielding a double standard here? Are we howling about violence on one side and ignoring it on the other?

A couple of things: first, I think I've said this before, I'm an instinctual pacifist, I really hate violence, but I'm even more an instinctual cultural relativist, and I understand most societies throughout human history have tolerated a level of violence that's too much for me, and I have to be careful about judging, in particular about judging the oppressed. And then, like many of us, I'm brought up on the same stories of anti-fascist bravery, on the streets of Weimar Germany, in the battles of the Spanish Civil War, in the French maquis and the Warsaw uprising, in all the places in Southeast and East Asia where people battled Japanese occupation (not to even mention the whole history of anti-colonial resistance from the 13 Colonies to Vietnam), the romance and rightness of resistance.

The people who use the term "antifa" on themselves are nourished by the same stories, and as I understand the history of the word by a sense of mission of protecting people. When the European punk movement was infested by racist skinheads and Nazis in the 1980s and 90s, these are the people who came between them and the harmless apolitical fans. That story just resonates with me.

And in the Charlottesville story as I'm reading it, yes, there was a lot of fighting, and it would be crazy to try to prove it was the Nazis and white supremacists that started it every time (I'm believing stories that the law failed to keep them apart, though), but it's also the case that one side wears ski masks and carries sticks while the other side wears armor and carries assault rifles, and that guy hurtling his car through the crowd (an entirely peaceful part of the group) may have been much crazier than the rest, but he was in the same fascist spirit of being the overwhelming strongest, inside his huge and heavy machine, attacking the weak.

But the other thing is anti-fascists are in the right, just like the Lincoln Brigades and the maquisards and so forth. They're really fighting against evil! I can't see any way around this to moral equivalency. Fascism is bad, the Confederacy was bad, and opposing them is good, even if you're opposing them in a less than optimal way.

And also this:
“So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is George Washington next week, and is Thomas Jefferson the week after?” the president asked. “You really have to ask yourself, ‘Where does it stop?’”
Once they start taking down statues of that gallant General Lee, they'll be taking down statues of everybody I like! He really doesn't understand that the Confederacy was a bad country, that deserved to lose the war. It's all a movie, or a Wrestlemania episode, and General Lee doesn't look like a heel, does he?

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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