By the time I can try to get enough words together to say anything substantial, accurate, and well-reasoned about any current event, it’s always too late. It’s old news. There’s something else posing a more immediate problem. So I never quite get the chance to make sense of anything, or to say anything that might be remotely valuable. (Not that I actually have the skills, knowledge, or experience to say anything valuable about most news, anyway; even if I try, can it really be anything more than virtue signaling?) But the problem seems endemic: In the time it takes anyone to assemble substantial and accurate and well-reasoned words in response to any statement or event, uncountable volleys of insubstantial, inaccurate, insensible, reactionary bullshit can make the rounds. So it feels like the news is an overwhelming deluge of thoughtless, meaningless, heartless, spineless, reckless bullshit.
This weekend – yes, always, but more overtly this weekend – white supremacist bullshit is in the news. White guys gathering to advocate some “ideal” future where only white guys have power and influence. A future where everyone else gets to exist only at the white guys’ magnanimous indulgence, and only within the parameters the white guys have set. Because these white guys want a future that protects their children and their culture – by making sure that other children and other cultures hold no power in it.
You know, a future that’s a lot like a lot of the past.
I don’t know that there’s any thoughtful, meaningful thing that could be said to these people that would “change their minds.” It’s not a rational argument in the first place; they’re operating on irrational fear. And that’s hard as hell to stop. The very nature of fear means it’s seen as a self-protection system: they think they’re trying to protect themselves from annihilation. And nobody can overcome that fear for them. Nobody can make them cultivate empathy or insight. It’s something they’d have to work toward – but they’re not going to try. The very nature of their fear means that they’re not going to try – no more than someone would try to walk off a cliff. Nevermind that there’s not actually a cliff there at all, nevermind that they’re deluded, nevermind that they’re not just making life awful for other people but also for their own precious selves. Between fear, selfishness, and pride, they’re not even going to try.
Any pushback they get reinforces their sense of isolation and me-against-the-world, back-against-the-cliff-edge fear. If they’re ostracized, it’s not as if they suffer silently in sober contemplation. They can find other people who share their beliefs, and they can all end up reinforcing each other. They’ll form social bonds with those guys, instead, and apply their toxic heroism to them. Those will be the people they’re trying to defend, and theirs will be the methods used to defend them.
(Yeah, I think the idea of toxic masculinity is a big factor, too; the most ‘valid’ way for men to express the strength of their emotions or convictions seems to be in terms of how much they’ll hurt other people – or how willing they are to sacrifice themselves – in defending those ideals.)
So what can even be done? All these “alt-right” assholes didn’t just appear out of nowhere. They’re not video game bad guy Nazis who spawned offscreen. They didn’t congeal in some cesspit and slither into a polo and khakis. They weren’t born with it; they became it. They’re people, and they may be people we know. Something in their lives and in their minds made white supremacy seem like a valid stance to them, and how the hell does that happen? And how the hell do we change that? Is that even possible? (I sure as hell don’t know; I’m no historian, I’m no sociologist, and I don’t really have any experience to bring to bear; I’m just venting.) Are they just going to always be there, on the extreme end of the bell curve, no matter what?
Maybe there’s only so much we can do, but ignoring it doesn’t do anything.
I mean, sure, it’d be peachy if we could just dismiss white supremacists as being stupid, sniveling, superstitious whiners whose ideals and endeavors don’t pose a threat to anyone, and who are going to just fade into nonexistence in another generation or two. If you’re not an obvious target to them, as is often the situation if you’re a white guy yourself, then that might seem like a good option. After all, they’re not trying to subjugate YOU.
Obviously, if you DO challenge them, they’re not going to change their minds in some wonderful sudden epiphany. Maybe they’ll decide you’re a “race traitor” and part of the “problem” after all. Maybe they become a threat to you.
But, the thing is, when bigots are NOT challenged by their fellow white guys, it helps them keep thinking that they’re some sort of brave defenders of “whiteness,” whatever their arbitrary bullshit definition of that may be.
When you don’t call them out, they’re probably going to keep thinking that you’d appreciate what they’re doing for you.
This is especially true if you have a higher social or political standing than they do.
So, yeah. Call out white supremacist and bigoted bullshit. Listen to the marginalized and the oppressed. And take care of each other out there.