A post from Logan Rimel, parish administrator at University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley (CA). Logan traveled to Charlottesville during the weekend of August 5 to bear witness with his friends at Charis Community Cville.
Some thoughts on nonviolence post-Charlottesville:
TLDR: White Christians, if you aren’t willing to personally take a bat to the head, shut up about antifa.
My FB feed, podcast feed, workplace conversations, and church chit chat are circling around Charlottesville, antifa, violence/nonviolence, white folks quoting Dr. King, white supremacy, neo-Nazis…It’s hard to get away from it. There’s part of me that doesn’t want to, that wants to keep refreshing the feed, taking in more, trying to read the next thing and the next thing. Maybe if I keep myself submerged here, what I saw will make sense.
Since coming back from Charlottesville I have been physically disconnected, emotionally disabled, and spiritually chaotic. I’m told this is normal, and I’m not judging myself for it. (Well, that’s not quite true – impostor syndrome is real, even in times like this. Who am I to be affected by what I saw, heard, and felt, when others “deserve” their reactions so much more authentically?) I wake up and remember what happened, and it settles heavily in my chest, pressing on my throat. But I get up, I go to work, I show up at meetings, get a beer with a friend. My cat is fed and my laundry is put away and yesterday I successfully talked myself out of eating an entire pie, so…yeah, I’d say things are looking up.
I’m ok. I really am. I’m gonna be able to get back to normal; I have so many resources and so much love surrounding me. Thank you to everyone who’s reached out, given me a massage, let me talk at them, prayed with and for me, given me a ride, sent their love, and sat in quiet to keep me company.
One disquieting aspect of this experience has been how I think about pacifism and nonviolence. I’ve always considered myself a pacifist, though I recognized that it was an untested, hypothetical kind of pacifism. Weak sauce, really. In Charlottesville, my “nonviolent” stance was met with heavily armed men. They came with bats, clubs, plywood shields painted with swastikas, brass knuckles, tear gas canisters, and wooden sticks. Not to mention the guns. The heavily armed militia were everywhere. They liked that they made you feel nervous. It was fun for them.
They came to hurt people, and they did.
Let me take a moment to be clear – I do not advocate for violence. I trust, however pig-headedly, that all of creation – including all people – is both capable and worthy of salvation. That there is no such thing as a lost cause with God. I cannot explain this trust; it is a part of me deeper than rational faculty. To commit violence against another human being is to commit violence against the image of God in them. To me, it is a sin. I do not believe God requires us to sin. But it seems apparent to me that the world sometimes does.
I never felt safer than when I was near antifa. They came to defend people, to put their bodies between these armed white supremacists and those of us who could not or would not fight. They protected a lot of people that day, including groups of clergy. My safety (and safety is relative in these situations) was dependent upon their willingness to commit violence. In effect, I outsourced the sin of my violence to them. I asked them to get their hands dirty so I could keep mine clean. Do you understand? They took that up for me, for the clergy they shielded, for those of us in danger. We cannot claim to be pacifists or nonviolent when our safety requires another to commit violence, and we ask for that safety.
And so I come to this – white liberal Christian friends, I’m talking to you. I’ve seen a lot of condemnation of “violent response,” lots of selective quoting Dr. King, lots of disparagement of antifa and the so-called “alt-left,” a moral equivalency from the depths of Hell if I ever saw one. You want to be nonviolent? That is good and noble. I think…I think I do, too. But I want you to understand what you’re asking of the people who take this necessary stance against white supremacy, the people who go to look evil in the face. You’re asking them to be beaten with brass knuckles, with bats, with fists. To be pounded into the ground, stomped on, and smashed. You’re asking them to bleed on the pavement and the grass. Some of them are going to die. And you’re asking them to do that without defending themselves.
Are you willing to do that? Are you going to to go out when the Nazis come here, to the Bay Area, next week? Are you going to offer your body to them? No? Are you willing to take a bat to the head? To be surrounded by angry young men who want nothing more than to beat you unconscious, like they did Deandre Harris? Are you going to rely upon a different type of violence – that imposed by the state – to protect you – even knowing it is a danger to your neighbors? To outsource the violence your safety requires to someone else? Or are you just not going to show up, at the rally or afterward? To choose passivity over pacifism – because let’s be clear, nonviolence is still about showing up.
If you are unwilling to risk your bodily integrity to stand against literal Nazis, but you are willing to criticize the people out there who are taking this grave threat seriously but not in a way of which you approve….I just don’t know what to say to you. Truly. Your moral authority is bankrupt and you’re not helping. You’re a hypocrite.
Everyone wants to feel safe. You are not safe. Your Muslim neighbors are not safe. Your immigrant neighbors are not safe. Your black neighbors are not safe. Your disabled neighbors are not safe. Your indigenous neighbors are not safe. Your Jewish neighbors are not safe. Your transgender neighbors are not safe. If you feel safe now, it’s an illusion born of your relationship to power. But make no mistake – you may not be the canary, but we’re all in the same coal mine. These people have been “community organizing” for DECADES. They are base-building and they have the White House. They have infiltrated law enforcement. They are in every legislative body and on every school board. You are not safe.
How can the sleeping white church, of which I am a part, mobilize the church militant? How can we spiritually prepare and discipline the followers of Christ to put their bodies on the line? It’s an earnest question; I don’t know the answer. We don’t have a lot of time to equivocate, though. It’s time to move.
“The issue is not, “What must I do in order to secure my salvation?” but rather, “What does God require of me in response to the needs of others?” It is not, “How can I be virtuous?” But, “How can I participate in the struggle of the oppressed for a more just world?” Otherwise our nonviolence is premised on the self-justifying attempts to establish our own purity in the eyes of God, others, and ourselves, and that is nothing less than a satanic temptation to die with clean hands and a dirty heart.”—Walter Wink, Jesus and Nonviolence: A Third Way
Logan is a white, transgender, genderfluid man currently living in the Bay Area. He is a stress baker, podcast fiend, snarky cross-stitcher, and reluctant Episcopalian. He works as the parish administrator at University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley.
112 thoughts on “My “Nonviolent” Stance Was Met With Heavily Armed Men”
Grateful for this reflection.
I certainly respect you for being there protesting what is truly evil. I know it took courage. This is also true of the antifa folks. Brave women and men, trying to do what is right, generally speaking. But I question the tactics, which I do not think are helpful to our cause. I do not think street fights with the KKK-Nazis work to our advantage. They make it so easy to do the moral equivalency dance that Trump, but many others way to his left, are doing all over the place, in part to pardon their own unwillingness to stand up. Street fights provide a recruiting films for the KKK-Nazis; their potential recruits out there would just love to stomp the shit out of an n____, an n-lover, faggot, commie-Jew-faggot, race traitor, and anyone who advocates free anything–lunch, tuition, public schools, healthcare, Huey, Dewey or Lewey, anything. Our potential recruits, however, are not spoiling to go battling these assholes in the street. My suggestion is not that we stay home. It is simply that we not block the streets or get all up in their faces. We need to make our voices heard loud and clear. We must defeat them politically. I am not saying don’t carry a baseball bat; I am saying, don’t carry such a small baseball bat. The biggest baseball bat we can carry is an interracial coalition large enough to beat them handily. That is, beat them at politics. I do not think the street fighting
Glad you can feel this way. I don’t have the luxury of safety. I am a disabled Indigenous woman. Even if I chose not to be present, I am in danger. If antifa were not somewhere to protect me, I would be dead. Think about it.
Thought about it. You should just kill yourself now to be sure.
There’s a problem with what you are saying, though. The fascists are there to fight. They want to hurt people. They want to kill them. You sound like you want to ignore the fact they’re out for blood and just wring your hands at the casualties instead of granting there’s a way for there to be fewer of them and still shout over the Nazis. The punk scene in the 1970s in the US had to deal with white supremacists. Everyone who tried passive resistance or negotiation or merely talking across them lost. The only spaces that were free from their taint had people willing and able to stomp them into the dirt and did. We are not dealing with genteel politicians. These are hatred-fueled hearts who see everyone not like them as targets. This is why Germany’s attempts to just talk over them failed miserably. And by insisting antifa should not defend protesters, you are playing into the fascists’ hands.
What many of us said in 2001 is that Sept. 11 should have been treated as a crime. Meaning, it should have prompted policing actions, not a war. I realize the police forces in the US, as a whole have not covered themselves in glory these days in the minds of most Americans. . But I wonder if we ought not to rally to insist they do their jobs, not ask Americans to willy-nilly deal with violent thugs. We ought to demand that our society be just, not that individuals be empowered to deal with crime in the streets.
Seems to me that what we also have on our side is numbers. And after Boston, and the cancellation of a number of future rallies (hooray) I think we saw the power of those tens of thousands.. And the Boston police seemed much more prepared and willing to deal with any violence too. After the “free speech” rally was abandoned, Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross told counterprotesters to celebrate their victory against hate. He told the anti-racism demonstrators that he was proud of them.So there could be no doubt that the white supremacists were an unwelcome minority..The San Francisco police department is mobilizing for this Saturday’s “rally” as well. We’ll see what happens.
Lysana, you may be right about the punk scene, but you’re wrong about German history.
Germany actually did try to outlaw freedom of speech briefly during the rise of nazism and it backfired. It made Hitler into a free speech martyr and spread his ideas like wildfire.
They also tried to fight Nazism with violence and it too fueled Nazism’s rise. The communists launched their own campaign of violence, thus losing the moral high ground, and the populace began to feel trapped between violent crazies on either side. By the time of the Reichstag fire, people were so fed up with the chaos that they welcomed Hitler’s authoritarianism.
Answering these people with violence and making our side look morally equivalent to the violent neo-nazis gives Trump and Fox News a way to push their “two-sides” narrative.
This article is also foolish because it makes it sound as if confrontations with the neo-nazis were unavoidable, when in fact they are perfectly avoidable. Most of these protests are set up so that both sides are separated and you have to go out of your way to physically confront the other side.
In Charlottesville, the counter-protestors didn’t have permits and rather than creating their own space to counter protest, they chose to invade the area that the white supremacists were gathering. It was basically an invitation for confrontation (which the violent neo-nazis were more than happy to take them up on).
The author is right. These people have been organizing, and we need to fight back with equal amounts of organization and smarts. Smart is taking the high ground. Staging a peaceful counter-protest for the media and all to see us standing in solidarity (ala Boston). Not going there to start skirmishes and argue with neo-nazis who aren’t worth the time or the effort.
We will win this by looking like adults next to a bunch of hillbilly racists. NOT by looking like a bunch of moron teenagers dressed in black masks looking like their own paramilitary force inciting their own violence. That’s a prescription for more nazis and more false equivalency.
If our opponents are outwardly violent and wish direct harm to my neighbours by all that is good in humanity I will break there damn bones and send them packing. I will not allow vulnerable populations to be the first place the violence of fascists will crash down on if I can help it.
The False equivlency is not created by Antifa, antifa know what they stand for it’s in the damn name. It’s moderates sitting comfortable at home making the false equivalency. People who on average are going to do jack in general let alone stand in the way of fascism.
I’m not going stand idle to apease those moderate when I could prevent assaults and murders of the vulnerable with my body, and if need be, a good ass kicking. Period, Full stop.
The question I struggle with is this: Would these Nazis attack innocent, unarmed people? We don’t know, because they do come armed, but are they armed to do battle with Antifa? What would happen if they weren’t anticipating violence? We’ll never know who made the first move, who started a skirmish that escalated into a street brawl. And that bothers me. I have to stay away from this kind of march necause I am an above-knee amputee and, though I have a state of the art prosthesis, I would be defenseless. I wouldn’t be able to run from the violence.
Is Antifa there to protect me? Or are they there for another purpose? I would love to see just Antifa representing us against those cretin Nazi wannabes, those monsters, each one in his own deplorables’ basket. The non-violent marchers should remain in a designated place, right next to the Supremacists’ rally. Or they could form a ring around the area, and the battle could happen in the middle, like the gladiators in the Colosseum. Good vs evil. The United Colors of Benneton vs young white guys feeding on white privileged, hanging onto it like toddlers clutch their blankets when mommy wants to wash it, because it’s dirty. It’s nasty. It must be cleansed. Just like the Nazi and White Supremacists and Klan members and all the lost boys who join with them must be cleansed, the hate washed out of them like the dirt and scum it is.
But how do you do all that with violence? Their numbers are small enough that they can be overcome, but to what end? Antifa can go home thinking they won the battle, but are they changing minds? Are they? Can they? I think not. I think you cannot beat good into somebody. I think these battles have just the opposite effect. Once the Nazis tasted blood, it probably steeled them and made them try to up the ante. Thank god none of those guns were used and more people weren’t killed. I think the monster that drove into the crowd was either a nutcase rogue, or he was somebody who needed to be noticed and probably thought those groups would hold him up as a martyr for their cause rather than see him for what he was: a hateful twenty year old lost cause who acted on impulse.
So, while I still struggle with this, I cannot agree with your argument. This is too much like the quandary over which came first, the chicken or the egg? I don’t know the answer to that. I’m not sure if I want Antifa fighting for my cause. I have to wonder how many of them are extreme leftists and how many are there because they love a good fight.
The best way to find those answers is for Antifa to sit one out. Let the Nazi wannabes, the fascists and the followers, come with their homemade shields and clubs and sharpened flag poles. My guess is that, when faced only with non-violent and unarmed protesters, they will not use those weapons. They’ll just do their stupid marching and go on their way. They won’t get the reaction they expected, nor will they get the attention they crave. Media coverage of the protest/counter protest might last a news cycle or two, but then people will move on to the next day’s events.
If Antifa wants to help us, the best way to do it is to be defenders. The best offense is a good defense.
For years, people on the Left have tried to engage those in the Far Right in civil discussions and debates, with respect and civility. Those interactions have almost always, invariably, melted down into the right-wing bullying, mocking, harassing and threatening the Left. Every time we’ve sought peaceful means to solve problems, the Right has seen us as weak, pushovers, who are afraid to physically stand-up for what they believe in. They seen each inch that we’ve conceded as a nod for them to take a mile. British PM Neville Chamberlain tried such appeasement with Hitler in Munich over the Sudetenland, and Hitler and his generals laughed behind Chamberlain’s back, and proceeded to take the whole of then-Czechoslovakia by force. Great Britain did nothing in response. This only emboldened Hitler and his armed forces even more, and, thus, World War II and the Holocaust followed. This is the mentality the neo-Nazis today embrace: violence to achieve their goals; pacifism is weakness. Non-violence hasn’t worked. Our pacifism is the best recruitment propaganda these White Supremacists have: an enemy who talks a lot, but is too afraid to fight for what they believe in. AntiFa isn’t telling everyone to take up weapons to stand up for what they believe in, but, rather, they have no problem standing up to these Nazi boneheads, all the while sacrificing their own bodies to protect and defend those who choose peaceful means to voice their frustration and concerns. Pacifists and street fighters can work arm-in-arm to achieve social justice for all, as they have before, not just in the US, but all around the world; wherever there are oppressors and those who are/feel oppressed.
You should understand that we don’t care about moral equivalency debates. They have to be physically stopped. That’s what we’re talking about here, crushing their movement.
You also clearly don’t care about your own cause because if you could pull head out of your ass for one second you’d see that antifa and violence on the left is handing these people a recruiting tool that also prevents moderates from joining our cause.
Their movement is already crushed. This is the last gasp of an angry white populace learning to deal with no longer being a majority. The only thing giving them life right now is dumbassery from the left.
I say this as a Jew who could easily be targeted by these assholes in Charlottesville: Stop. By bashing people with bike locks and acting like babies in Berkeley, the only thing antifa is “crushing” is their own credibility.
God, shut the fuck up. You’re handing people without morals a moral victory by shitting on their opposition. Which side are you on?
And how many more people will die? Violence begets violence. We have the power of numbers. We can elect responsible, moderate leaders who will not allow Nazism to take hold in our country. We Democrats can do that, and so can the Republicans. I think many of them are seeing the light. They are standing up for the good in people. They are standing up to a man who seems to be trying to stack the deck with the level of hierarchy below him that won’t fight against this fascist movement. I saw the results of a poll the other day in which Trump’s approval rating with Republicans was hovering just under 50%. Of that fifty percent, more than 60% of them said they would support him no matter what he said and, worse, no matter what he did. They would not even consider the fact they will suffer as much from his programs and policies as we will.
I would like to see an event with no violence from the left. A non-violent protest, people armed only with bullhorns to drown out the speeches, with signs, with the power of numbers. I think there should be a strong police presence, with police forming their own ring between the Nazi wannabes and the protesters.
I think young men (many just boys, really, who confuse these real life battles with their video games) are drawn to these violent clashes, the physical confrontations, because they are desperate to belong somewhere, anywhere, with any group that will have them. And yes, I think there are guys like this on both sides. I just wish we could tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys in those wars. It’s hard to tell these days. I’m not talking about their ideologies. Of course I stand on the right side of history. Of course I want these hate filled groups to either wake the fuck up and recognize what they are doing or go back to their sorry little lives pretending to be something we will never let them be. Let them, MAKE THEM, crawl back under their rocks. Just do it with the power of numbers. When they go low, we go high.
And how many violently persecuted people, and how big a national wave of hate crimes, are you willing to watch between now & just such a moment when that coalition has been built, tested & active?
If we could press pause on the world, you’d be ABSOLUTELY correct in your argument.
As it stands, no eventual coalition is gonna coat our veins in kevlar.
Not. Mutually. Exclusive.
I couldn’t agree more.
The thing we don’t know because the news does not report it is that when these nazis show up they physically attack people and churches/synagogues/mosques, even away from their marches. They recently attacked a Black Muslim church in the East Bay. It was not reported in the news at all. They are here to cause harm to our people. When people who are against fascism show up, they are not showing up for a street fight. They are showing up to literally protect all people and to show that these attacks are not acceptable.
One of the first things we have to do is to be careful about parroting the talking points of the state which seeks to soften the reality of systemic white supremacy. We must talk about the reality of what is actually happening from accounts of people who were physically there. If we don’t we are giving credence to narratives that ultimately seek to criminalize self defense from life threatening, organized militias and turn public opinion against self defense and dissent.
I wonder why the word mosque was instantly edited out of my commment.
When Nazis show up they attack people and churches, synagogues, and mosques. They attacked a Black mosque, and it was not reported in any news outlet.
I wonder when the fuck liberals are going to wake up and see that the tactic of beating the rightwing, now the uber-rightwing-nuts, …politically… has been failing for more than 30 years. Think we can safely declare your plan a success for capitalism and ignorance and fundamentalism and evil in general.
I appreciate the fact that the clergy I’ve read who were in Charlottesville credited the antifa with saving their lives. It is an honest statement displaying some level of humility. But what I don’t hear them saying is “I’m dropping my convictions –next time I’ll bring my own gun/pepper spray/baseball bat.” I don’t think they feel the need to criticize the antifa — but they are making other choices. I have to say I credit the leaders of both the clergy and the antifa — they don’t seem to be confused about the actual point of the struggle. It isn’t a struggle against each other, it is a struggle against bigotry. I don’t see a lot of debate between them, but maybe I’m just not looking in the right place. Or maybe that is a deliberate choice.
I’m not sure who has the luxury of “saying nothing” about the use of violence, particularly clergy who are asked. But maybe what you’ve pointed to is the fact that pacifist Christians I think of (Quakers, King, Mennonites) have largely come to the conclusion after careful and deliberate thought. Not just by default or because it sounds cool or because they think it will be easy. And it is not a decision they make for other people.
This prompted me to look back at the relationship between MLKing and Malcolm X — what they said about each other, and how each man evolved. I found it instructive. Malcolm X was initially quite critical of King. King acknowledged the differences but didn’t speak much about Malcolm X. (And consider the members of Elijah Mohammed’s group who surrounded King when he spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.) Late in life Malcolm X seemed to be evolving more in the direction of King. They planned to meet when Malcom X was assassinated, two days before.
It’s my understanding that Malcolm X was quite militant and was heavily involved in martial arts and training for their members. Once he split from Elijah Mohammed and Nation of Islam, Malcolm X’s followers took up firearms as well. Do you have examples of Malcolm X moving towards non-violence and pacifism? I must have missed that part.
Please read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” and you will learn a lot more about the man and his evolution than what the media and White society has told you about him. Following his break from the Nation of Islam, Brother Malcolm, his wife Betty and their small children were threatened and harassed daily; their house was firebombed. It was then that Malcolm’s followers took up arms — to protect Brother Malcolm and his family. This split from the Nation of Islam was precipitated by Malcolm pilgrimage to Mecca, and how he witnessed very dark-skinned men walking, sleeping and eating with blonde-haired, blue-eyed men — all brothers in the faith of Islam. When he came back to the States, he was a changed man, and publicly expressed his change of mindset and ideas, as well as how his perspective of MLK, Jr had changed for the better: he respected and admired Martin for his steadfast approach to non-violent means. You will learn so much about not only Malcolm, but his relationship with Martin, and the Civil Rights Movement, once you delve more deeply into what made him tick, and it all starts with picking up a copy of “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
Another good book on topic is “Martin and Malcolm and America” by James Cone.
I’d almost forgotten about that one, Geoffrey! Thanks for reminding me. I’ll have to pick it up. Much appreciated!
Also, there is a play depicting what might have happened at a meeting between Dr. King and Malcolm X.
FWIW on this subthread, Manning Marable’s exhaustive biography of Malcolm X says that Alex Haley’s Autobiography (published after Malcolm’s death) misrepresented Malcolm’s level of militancy. I.e. That Malcolm was more militant than Haley portrayed.
This is a brilliant analysis. Those who cannot see are, as you say, enjoying an illusory freedom to offer critique from confirm born of their relationship to power
Take a “it sends the wrong message” stand if you wish. But I still hear people today engage in anti-Semitism based on their belief that the Jews did not fight back but simply and willingly walked to their slaughter.
You cannot have it both ways. These people will utilize every bit of moral weakness you offer. They are manipulating you into hating those protecting you, having you look at each other and not themselves while they happily move forward while you are debating how best to stop them.
Their goal is extermination, your only response must be a resounding “No!” When they show up armed with guns, they intend to use them. They call themselves an army, they have declared war against you, they have a very successful history of cultivating passivity through false moral equivalencies and sheer disbelief/denial they have destabilized and disabled the highest levels of your government. They are systematically removing every right and protection (except the right to violence) you have. They are actively regulating bodies they don’t like through policing, poverty, refusing health care and reproductive services, denying education, and closing washroom doors. What more do you need to know?
“They are systematically removing every right and protection (except the right to violence) you have. They are actively regulating bodies they don’t like through policing, poverty, refusing health care and reproductive services, denying education, and closing washroom doors. What more do you need to know?”
Antifa beat up senior citizens in St. Paul, MN this past spring, for no reason. Seems strange to defend them…
Sounds totally legit.
If you’re talking about the restaurant incident… it was a meeting of white supremacists and I wouldn’t call them senior citizens (various ages and only a couple over 50). This is the story ‘they’ put out trying to gain sympathy and support.
I was there as well and documented groups of Christians singing and praying in the face of armed personnel.
Well, that’s it, then.
But do you happen to know a guy called Gepetto?
Thank you for this incredible witness, Logan. And for being able to articulate your experience in a way that so captures the moment – as well as the deep, important questions it poses to all of us who would attempt to throw in with the movements for justice and peace in our time.
These are all questions and wrestlings I could not quite put a finger on…thank you for doing it so well, courageously, and with such integrity. And for also doing it in such a spirit of grounded, urgent, clear-eyed, truth-telling humility – it speaks deep to how Spirit seems to be moving and prodding those of us who wish to throw in with increased integrity in the ongoing struggle against white supremacy, especially those of us who are more privileged – and can therefore tend to be less savvy, and more blinded by – our whiteness and Christian-ness (myself included!).
As a recovering fundamentalist – coming from the evangelical side of American fundamentalism – I am often caught off guard and exasperated by what feels like the fundamentalism of those (many whom I deeply respect, want to learn from, and admire) who are committed to nonviolence. So I deeply appreciate your commitment to nonviolence – as a core value, principal and strategy – while at the same time being willing to question it and be open to learning and seeing its holes, and being willing to adapt and change according to what that honest questioning demands, especially as those questions arise from the frontlines of present-struggle.
I remember sitting in on a class (of mostly white, mainline seminary students) that Reverend Sekou was teaching on militant nonviolent direct action, about a year-and-a-half ago. As one who has been through seminary, but was sitting in on this particular class with feet firmly planted in – and having all my deeply middle-class white sensibilities schooled by – Detroit’s water struggle (led bravely, persistently, and with integrity by communities of color, backs up against the wall due to endless onslaughts of racist policy, displacing and attempting to destroy their communities from all angles), I found Rev Sekou’s analysis, politics and theology absolutely riveting, speaking deeply to the moment we find ourselves in.
He was preaching, improvising and genius-ly discerning the Spirit of the times around every corner… but the largely shut-down, angry response of the class to what, for me, was being experienced as life-giving GIFT & healing balm – the kind of truth-telling preaching one does not get the grace and honor of receiving very often… well, it’s no understatement to say: it pissed me off that some of the more vocal and dominating members of my class chose to direct our precious discussion time according to their sensitivity to some of the Rev’s language (which was not even the major meat & potatoes of his sermonizing) – essentially shutting down the movement of Spirit in a way that could have taken us all so much deeper into the spiritual tools we need to face the times we face.
What I would now understand as the spirit of liberal fundamentalist Christianity, of the white persuasion, most of which had 2 feet planted firmly in the church… this group of seminary students couldn’t see past what they deemed to be deeply offensive, “violent” language within Rev Sekou’s deeply poetic and powerful lecture-turned-sermon in the face of white supremacist Neo-fascist violence (of the nature most of us in that class could never even fathom being on the receiving end of for a moment, let alone all the time). It frustrated my spirit so deeply to see that THIS is where so many of my kin are… at THIS point in the conversation, where we have to spend time arguing over language deemed violent by white sensibilities (which btw, was just language that has risen up from the streets as part of the self-empowering, militant, joy-filled, love-overflowing, nonviolent movement for black lives).
We white people need to stop setting ourselves up as the judge of what is or is not nonviolent and/or “morally acceptable” in this struggle – for the lives of which most of us do not yet have palpable skin in the game. What is life-giving, empowering, and means for savvy survival for those on the receiving end of unthinkable State-sponsored violence around every corner, we at the very least, need to increase our ability as white people to listen to and learn from those with backs against the wall, before quickly jumping in and setting ourselves up as the moral authority on the struggle THEY are leading.
Sorry for getting up on my platform a bit here… this grief over white liberal fundamentalism and “politeness” sensibilities when it comes to fighting unthinkable State-level violence brought down on black and brown bodies on the daily….it has been churning my stomach and breaking my heart ever since.
We, as white and middle-class people especially, have major catching up to do in the humility to have our sensibilities rearranged by those who have been catching the back side of this evil empire for far too long now….
Grateful for voices like your’s Logan… to call us to wrestle the things we must wrestle in ourselves that block us from throwing in with more integrity, courage and humility.
There are no easy answers for what we face… thank you for inviting us into a deeper process of soul-searching, self-honest struggle. And the invitation to ongoing conversion from our own myriad blind spots.
Logan, I discovered your blog while googling “nonviolence” last night and deeply appreciated what you shared. As a person of color who has attempted nonviolence in situations of confronting white mobs with mental, not physical, weapons in situations of lopsided power… I have to say nonviolence is still a fraught social experiment and not the answer for every situation. It definitely has a fail rate, not just successes.
It is a person’s right to self-defend in the face of hostility and bloodthirst… it would be a detriment to take someone else’s version of a moral high ground in such situations. Maybe even cost his life. I had often wondered if the solution was to engage the mob, but my own experiences have shown that mobs are not there for dialogue. Mobs are their own extreme power dynamic, gone off the deep end. There is no easy answer, other than to try to minimize the lose-lose. I have since discovered a more Buddhist worldview of compassion and self-compassion, and that has provided different, equally useful insights toward nonviolence as a stance. My heart goes out to you, the people at Charis and everyone who confronted hate and the mass display of warped, white woundedness in Charlottesville. May we all be able to feel safe one day, and to heal from perceived disenfranchisement.
This is admirably lucid. Thanks.
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It is written clearly in the bible that ” 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
36 And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. 37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (matthew 10) It never was about felling satisfied with once soul – It was against violence in for achieving private gains, but not against it for the best of society… it was a revolution and about standing with the right things.
I appreciate the clarity and honesty of your thoughts.
but i must say this: i was there too, and I felt the least safe when I was near antifa, who kept taunting the Nazis and the armed militia in all sorts of ways, including physically (mace, smoke bombs, bags with piss, etc.).
I could not engage these people in conversation, though i tried once or twice. but they seemed to have blurred several issues: WHETHER violence is necessary vs. Nazis, vs, WHEN it is. whether it is JUSTIFIED, vs. whether it is WISE.
in this case, you had many people with AK-47s. unlike you, I did not know whose side they were on, and there is evidence that some at least (Redneck Revolt) were opposed to the Nazis.
the antifa folks seemed to take our mission to be to defeat the Nazis. that’s not what I thought my mission was, which is to demonstrate to the world at large that these Nazis–not all Nazis, but these Nazis–are weak, ineffective, and are not supported by the majority of the people.
the antifa kept doing things that nearly resulted in shooting breaking out, risking my life and the life of many others without our consent. we had no right to block the Nazis from their park–we tried to do that legally, we failed. blocking them was asking for a fight, with no legal justification to do so. the fight broke out several times. the police could not intervene because of the AK-47s. (I asked, and they explained it to me.)
if an armed resistance against Nazis is necessary, I will join. but we need to decide that as a group, rather than some among us making that decision for themselves. had such a discussion taken place (and I did my best to monitor pre-rally events, and did not see anything about this) I’d have argued vigorously that this was not the place or time for it. Maybe I’d have lost, but then i’d have known what I was in for. This is not the way to conduct a resistance, in my opinion.
So you admit you don’t understand anything about the situation and still feel compelled to offer color commentary on what you saw as “provoking.” Instead of standing in solidarity with people expressing righteous anger at people preaching genocidal hate, you scold them from your perceived moral perch. This might be why people didn’t involve you in the (vast) pre-rally planning efforts that were necessary to conduct an organized response to these hateful monsters.
Ignoring Nazis and white supremacists will never result in them going away. It has never, it will never. The outgrowth of fascism is an inevitable consequence of capitalism and the only possible response is stamping it out and demonstrating to people that being a public fascist comes attached with potentially violent consequences. This isn’t just necessary to eliminate fascists, but also to protect people who, absent the threat of violence from antifascists, would be victimized and murdered en-masse by the fascist hooligans. Redneck Revolt was there as part of this organized effort, and their armed presence several times prevented roving gangs of equally heavily armed fascists from invading the safe spaces set up for healing, treatment and recovery. And even then, it was still *barely* enough. So while we barely prevented a greater massacre through militancy, you proceed to argue for even less. In other words, you wish Nazis had murdered more of us.
Appealing to legalism is similarly childish and short sighted. Not only did the police fail to do anything to protect people at risk from fascists, but their job is literally to uphold the system that breeds and protects fascism in the first place. Appealing to law and order as a defense against fascists and fascism is akin to hiring the fox to guard the chicken coop. Stop being part of the problem and join those on the side of solving it.
You are not solving fascism. You are aiding and abetting it by getting off on playing the role of “radical” and engaging with the enemy in a way that is immature and detrimental to the cause.
I say this as a Jewish man with skin in the game (my own skin!).
The previous poster is exactly right. It is YOU who do not understand the situation.
The point of these rallies isn’t to convince the opposition they’re wrong or even to engage with them. These people are already lost causes. The point is to show that we are stronger and that their way is dying and that joining their ranks is career and social suicide. Boston was a fantastic display of unity that achieved this. No violence. Perfect message sent. The only knock on it? Dumbass antifa members throwing piss bottles at the cops.
Here’s a guy saying firsthand that antifa was making things more dangerous for him and others in Charlottesville. This is exact experience I’ve had at other rallies. Yet you are discounting first and experience. Who is the one acting childish here?
It’s only a matter of time before someone from the left kills someone on the right. It got pretty close in Berkeley with that antifa dumbass with the bike lock. It will do irreparable damage to the cause and cause more people to stay home and/or believe that trump is correct in saying that there are “two sides.” You are not solving anything. You are creating more problems.
Ok Aaron, whatever you say. Being Jewish doesn’t absolve you from being a fascist enabler, contrary to what liberalism would say.
You’re right that they’re lost causes. But what are YOU doing about it? Staying home is not acceptable.
These people will not stop until capitalism is ended and their kind is isolated. This is established FACT.
You falling back on someone literally admitting that they have no idea what was going on, no insight into the organizing, and no comprehension of why a militant response was necessary is not a convincing rebuttal. Do better.
Here’s a good take, I wish that fascist in berkeley WAS killed with that bike lock, it would have done something to prove to the roaming gangs of fascist murderers and would-be killers that there are people who don’t ascribe to liberalism’s useless message of “just let the police handle it” (a police force that has embraced white supremacists, even according to the FBI) and protected those that needed protection from these genocidal freaks anyway.
K, are you Jewish or a person of color? If not, then kindly fuck off and stop using the battle against fascists as a pretext for your battle against capitalism. Because that’s clearly what you’re in this for, not actually helping marginalized communities.
Your bike lock comments prove you don’t understand the stakes here or how media optics work, and that you care much more about furthering your own hateful anti-capitalist ideology than actually combatting fascism or protecting the groups you disingenuously claim to be fighting for.
“These people will not stop until capitalism is ended and their kind is isolated. This is established FACT.”
On what dumbass planet is this moronic statement an established “fact?”
This is your flawed opinion that has no basis in reality. you and other antifa members are using the battle against fascism as a screen to push your own anti-capitalist, anti-cop, pro-violence agenda. Just as the communists helped fuel the rise of hitler, you will only further cement trump’s power.
Stop fighting this fight in our name to further your own agenda. We don’t want you or need you and you will only make things worse.
God I don’t think I’ve read a more scorching hot liberal take than that recently. Yikes. Ok bud, you’ve made it clear you don’t understand anything and have no interest in helping anyone but yourself. Just stay clear next time.
Cool! Thanks for confirming that you are a non-Jew, non-POC more interested in play “revolutionary” than actually solving anything.
Absolutely spot on. FWIW, I have a visible disability. And yes, I support AntiFa 100%…. both now and 70-odd years ago. End of.
Thank you for your reflection on your understanding and practice of nonviolence or pacificism. What an interesting mix.
You start off violently, telling those who might question you to shut up. I guess probably to imbalance people who think they might be nonviolenter-than-thou. Only reason I do that is inner discomfort, disharmony between wisdom and words and actions.
I was affected in a similar way after participating in an Anti-Muslim Ban rally that some antifa people kind of ruined for me. From holding their own chants and shouting over the arranged (Muslim) speakers to getting into an altercation with a driver after the official rally and slashing at least one of his tires. Very unsettling to me.
I love that you trust, pig-headedly, that all people are capable and worthy of salvation. Me too. I may not have bothered responding without that bit being in there. I sometimes express it in Buddhist/Gandhian terms: “I don’t believe in ichantikkya.” Other times, more Christian terms like you do. Recognizing all are part of the Body of Christ. I embrace the universalist Christian side of the Unitarian Universalist tradition, in which I am an active member.
What can you possibly mean by God doesn’t require us to sin, but sometimes the world does? Isn’t that the justification for ignoring God in every case? Ignoring our own higher selves? To the extent there is even that awareness and resulting ego need for justifying it until it the ego is surrendered.
I find it strange that you felt safe surrounded by people with masks and weapons.* While the presence of weapons on the other side of Christ was scary. Taking refuge in people willing to commit violence is not nonviolence. Not at all. Whether you are taking refuge in antifa or police or the military. You do not cite any instances of antifa people using violence to protect you. Yet claim to have felt safe and sheltered by their willingness to be violent – towards the right people. It is not nonviolence to put your safety ahead of violence towards anyone. So you are right that you can’t claim to be a pacifist or nonviolent, but not due to the self-exculpating reasoning you recite. One, your safety did not and does not require others to commit violence. Not if you are following God. It wasn’t enough for Jesus himself not to take up the sword. Two, asking for personal physical or psychological safety via violence to other people is simply not non-violent. Clinging to your own self-worth at the expense of others is sort of what you were their opposing, right?
No one is asking anyone to be beaten into the ground with this and that. But be willing to be beaten without lashing back. Just because you have fear when you see armed white whatevers marching doesn’t mean you are going to be beaten. It doesn’t mean you would have been had it not been for the violent counterprotesters. In all the cases of angry protests and coutnerprotests, there are few cases of that. And again, none – that I know of – where the fight started by people looking for violence attacking the nonviolent. That’s all fear and projection, justifying the clinging to privilege and relative notions of self-worth.
It’s also one thing to be part of a large nonviolent counterprotest, and another to be a nonviolent minority surrounded by angry violence-ready counterprotesters. Far more likely to be beaten in the latter case, and provide hype for extremists of all kinds. How is it going to serve the white whatevers to have video of them beating unarmed, unmasked, non-hateful people?
The fact that you call out others for outsourcing their violence I think points directly to the heart of your discontent. You recognize your own moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy, but find few who can help you see past it perhaps. Stuck there a bit. Might be ostracized if you expressed non-hateful views in some circles.
“If you feel safe now, it’s an illusion based on your relationship to power.” Exactly why you felt safe around antifa folks, right? And you feel safe holding these views because you find power being part of a community that expresses and tolerates one-sided hatefulness. A limited view of “the oppressed.” But it’s not really safe, is it? I see the inner conflict throughout this piece.
I quite agree that the question is not “what must I do in order to secure my salvation.” Though I would say you answered that question with “accept and endorse violence on my behalf,” I encourage you to let go of that, let go of seeking some moral upper hand to justify the mixed feelings your experience. Going from an I-centered world to a We-centered world can be scary. Stepping off of a “safe” ledge and climbing towards another, not quite seen, not quite known. Keep stepping, practice nonviolence towards yourself, and the need for the moral upper hand diminishes. Still comes up plenty in my case, but I am getting much better at recognizing it in the moment and letting it go instead of watering it.
I don’t have the issues about violence others have. I’m trained, and trained to use it to defend others, and I will defend what this country stands for. We may have a First Amendment, but a Nazi is a Nazi and it cost my Dad his soul fighting them so I have no quarter for them. If you approach me with a weapon, I know it’s not to debate. Laws around use of force go into effect.
There were indeed Antifa using violence to protect others from violence. There were also white nationalists doing the same thing, whether we wish to admit it or not. There were initiators of violence on both sides, again whether we wish to admit it or not.
All are human, with human/Christian frailties. In the context of this Christian-themed blog, I conclude that we should not celebrate any of the violent actions, regardless of logic, cause, righteousness. Jesus did not ask his disciples to protect him with violence. They all simply accepted what was coming, as God’s will and part of His plan. I conclude that this is the only example that merits our adherence.
All this debate violence vs. non-violence vs. Nazis is a FRAME that distracts from the actual issues here. Should we allow these protests by neo-Nazis to take place at all? Our beloved first amendment is being put to the test. We wouldn’t need counter-protests and the glory of the moment and all this call out culture if the courts did their job and didn’t allow ARMED groups to show up in our towns and cause trouble. I went to UVA- they should never have been allowed on the grounds of the campus. They didn’t even follow their routine for where they should’ve been. As soon as they saw guns, they should’ve shut the whole thing down. Instead of calling people who stayed home, how about calling out the police and the courts???
Can’t reply to Roger directly, but the bit about counter-protesters in Charlottesville not having a permit is simply a lie, uttered by Donald J. Trump, and soundly refuted by fact checkers (“Pants on Fire,” “Four Pinocchios”).
I think if we hold traditional nonviolent beliefs, such as don’t hit back when hit, don’t curse back when cursed at, turn the other cheek, etc., and if we are in a situation where someone else chooses violence to try to protect us, that is their choice, not ours (as long as we didn’t explicitly say, hey come here and please fight these people for me). If people hid behind Antifa on purpose to stay safe, I would consider that to be the same as hiding behind a rock, basically. It’s an opportunity to consider personal safety. Maybe they couldn’t leave safely right at that moment, and they didn’t want to get hurt or fight. Maybe these people had kids or sick loved ones at home who depend on them to survive. Choosing personal safety is not passivity. If certain people purposefully organize a bunch of nonviolent people together and agree to face bodily harm Gandhi-style, that is their own choice. I think it is not morally required for all nonviolent people.
To say pacifists or nonviolent people who choose to avoid getting injured are hypocrites if they criticize Antifa doesn’t make sense. Antifa members (maybe not all, but a lot) have consciously chosen violence, property destruction, and other law-breaking activities as options. As a human being, I can criticize that all I want (in a kind way of course, haha). That is not at all the same thing as saying their behavior is morally equivalent to Nazi or white supremacist behavior.
I’m neither white nor christian, I’m a Jew whose family is quite literally from Africa, and if I understand the way your rules work that lends what I’m about to say a different level of truth than if I were white or christian… which is itself troubling but another conversation.
Anyway what I have to say is very simple: For over a decade now my people have endured a level of violence rivalling that of Charlottesville, at times forcing us to literally pile furniture against doors and windows to keep out mobs screaming “DIE JEW” and “LONG LIVE THE INTIFADA”, and nobody has given one single solitary fuck about it because it was committed not by neonazis but by the alt-left. By the people who now march in the streets with a uniform and a flag.
We Jews know what this means. We’ve seen black uniformed people with black, red, and white flags who burn books and call for our eradication before. We’ve also seen them pretend to be the good guys standing up for the downtrodden poor, the worker, the oppressed. We’ve seen them claim the victims of their violence were really the bad guys and the oppressors. And we’ve seen as people swallowed it up like candy.
The nazis came to charlottesville with shields and weapons because over a year ago women were pelted with eggs and glass bottles just for attending Trump rallies, because men had the shirts ripped off their bodies or were beaten to the point of gushing blood from their wounds as they were taken to the hospital. They came prepared for war because they already knew they would be met with unprovoked violence no matter what they did.
And as usual antifa did not disappoint. The alt-left’s habit of accusing EVERYONE who disagrees with them, and especially of singling out and targeting the Jews for violent persecution, is perhaps the greatest recruiting tool that neonazis could ever wish for.
After all what could POSSIBLY be a greater away to delegitimize criticism of nazism and white supremacy than constantly accusing JEWS of being Nazis? What greater way could there be of handing over the moral highground than of routinely being violently antisemitic yourselves while claiming to be fighting nazis?
The fact is that at least a thousand people just attended a farewell party for a woman who bombed a grocery store to try and commit mass murder against Jews, and it wasn’t white supremacists it was antifa and the alt-left calling her a hero.
Nazis may have an ideology based on antisemitism, but antifa are actively and violently antisemitic.
Between the two the latter worry us far more.
Jew here, I am very confused by your comment J. We’ve been barricading our doors for 10 years against leftist mobs trying to kill us? None of the Jews I know have been doing that. What examples are there of Jews being targeted by leftists, in any kind of systematic way, for “violent persecution”?
If you look at the past couple decades of leftist activism in the United States, with millions marching in the streets, none of them remotely involved what you’re describing:
Black Lives Matter
LGBTQ rights movement
I’m not saying there haven’t been a few anti-semitic chants during leftist marches, there have been and that’s unacceptable and something that certainly needs to be addressed. But to compare a few isolated incidents (giving you the benefit of the doubt that they exist) to literal neo-Nazis is astounding to me.
I am totally willing to take a bat to my head. The moment nazis beat up innocent people that came as a group without any intention to fight would be the moment the nazis lose any support they may have. That’s what I believe.
Unfortunately that isn’t true for antifa. They continue to have support after beating up innocent protesters. Random people got assaulted because they “had a nazi haircut”. Even other antifa have taken a bat to the head just because somebody thought they were nazis. And because I’m convinced nazism is such an awful ideology that it will never be tolerated by 90% of the people, I’m really really fucking scared that people are tolerating antifa.
So, please, don’t go on their side. Stay on our side, where every violence is wrong, no matter what. There are only two sides in this conflict, so don’t choose the side of antifa and KKK.
For the record, we can already see the nazis losing support.
Unfortunately, the nazis and antifa are communicating vessels. They have always been. So this will never end until the public starts openly condemning all violent groups.
Thank you for this courageous article. Very much appreciated and good insight. Thank you.
I appreciate the accounting of antifa activity in defense of demonstrators who might otherwise get assaulted. But overall the logic here seems flawed to me. There is a difference between defending demonstrators or others and being willing to employ violence as a necessary part of that, vs. initiating violence against the white supremacist demonstrators when they aren’t engaged in violence. The criticisms of antifa are that they engage in the latter, not over the former.
That in turn leads to the second flaw in Rimel’s reasoning, namely the idea that violently confronting the white supremacists does make others more safe. To the extent that the violence is done as a necessary act of defense of the anti-racist demonstrators against violent assault by the racist ones, it might, at least in circumstances when police are unable or unwilling to provide that kind of protection. But when it goes beyond that, into the realm of initiating violence against them, it seems more likely to lead to an escalation of the violence and more innocent people getting harmed. That indeed seems like the most likely outcome to me, if things continue the way they have.
I didn’t make the trip to Charlottesville, so I can’t claim to have braved those risks in the way Rimel and others have. Perhaps I will on future occasions. That said, I can’t honestly say I’m willing to “take a bat to the head,” but that doesn’t mean I will or should “shut up about antifa.” I certainly won’t do so without a more clearly reasoned case than I’ve seen here.
If antifa activists haven’t gotten recognized for *defending* other protesters against violence, then they certainly deserve to be recognized for that, especially perhaps by those who are making criticisms. Rimel has done a valuable service in pointing that out. But beware of the slippery slope that lies ahead toward worse violence, and be sure to have the clearest thinking if walking down it.
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Friend speaks my mind. Thank you.
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So I am confused by something I’ve noticed here on this comment thread. It’s also at least partially implicit in Rimel’s piece, if not fully.
Defenders of Antifa have argued that people who aren’t willing to put their safety on the line shouldn’t criticize Antifa. But they’ve also claimed that Antifa activists have defended and made them safer.
It’s impossible for both those ideas to be true at the same time. If people need to be protected, and what happened in Charlottesville shows they do, then everyone going to such a rally is putting safety on the line, even if not to the same degree as the Antifa activists. And most people at these rallies are not part of the Antifa movement.
Here is the thing about Antifa. The danger that they are identifying – the rise of fascism – is VERY real. The White Supremacists in Charlottesville ARE Trump’s Brown Shirts, and Charlottesville IS their Kristallnacht.
Given that harsh reality we ALL should be anti-fascists. That should be the default American position!
But if you are one of those people who think that Antifa is wrong to violently confront the Nazis, remember this . . . at least they are confronting the Nazis!
If you think that having heavily armed, White Supremacists, marching through the streets of Charlottesville, with Nazi flags, chanting “Blood and Soil” and “Jews will not replace us!” is disgusting and frightening, but you are not speaking out against them, and you are not going out to protest them when they come to your town, then you are in NO POSITION to criticize how Antifa does it!
If you think that the right way to confront Nazi’s is non-violently, then let us see you out there non-violently confronting them! Because they ARE Nazis. And they DO need to be confronted.
We need to form a Non-Violent/Anti-fascist Movement!
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“TLDR: White Christians, if you aren’t willing to personally take a bat to the head, shut up about antifa”
I guess as a black Christian I can tell you what I think about antifa, and that you sound like a racist.
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ANOTHER article defending those fucks in Antifa!
because violence is ok if it is “our side” because we are like on the right side of history!
it is beyond ridiculous that you talk about Antifa as some sort of protectors.
Nazis are not a threat. They have been irrelevant since they SURRENDERED over 73 years ago.
The people that “Placed themselves between you and the Nazis” as you say
were American soldiers. Every day Americans that you on the left love to malign and belittle.
Antifa are embittered agitators. Kids who were brought up in a bad economy over the last 8 years and failed to launch.
These “Nazis” are really drunk losers themselves who were pretty much staying on their part of the square.
they were not coming to get you, you came to them.
and if you did, you knew the potential for trouble was abound.
our men and women in uniform will protect you, even though you claim they are only there because they canot find a job, but Antifa will not.
correct, antifa helping? Just like they helped those folks in Berkeley. Anitfa is a violence-prone criminal organization. they are no better than the losers in the Neo Nazi parties. Actually, they’re worse because they pretend to be something else. At least with the nazis you know what they are.
It’s absurd to equate Antifa with the white supremacists and neo-Nazis, much less to make them out as worse. As you can see on the preceding thread, I’m pretty critical of certain of their tactics, including what was demonstrated in Berkeley. But they’ve taken those misguided efforts in opposition to hatred and fascism, and they haven’t killed anyone nor tried to. White supremacist terrorism is the leading type in this country, and people have been killed.
Phil, the Nazis never went away. 60,000 just marched in Poland. We must oppose them always, everywhere. https://youtu.be/vFge_maVs3U
It’s absurdly simplistic to equate the neo-Nazis today with Nazi Germany. Even if you think they would act the same way as Germany’s Nazis did, which is probably of some but not all of them, we’re not in Nazi Germany. There isn’t some existential Nazi energy field linking the two. Nazi Germany had the characteristics that it had then, the United States today has the characteristics that it has today.
Saying we have to oppose today’s Nazis does nothing to answer the question of how best to do so, and I think the way some Antifa activists are going about it is extremely poorly chosen.
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You say that you don’t know what to say. You being a minister I would expect you to say that justice lies with God. As someone said it above taking a bat to the head is better than hitting back. See Matthew 26:51-53 and Romans 12:17-19.
Interesting post even though I do not agree with your reasoning.
Well, we could confront the neo-Nazi/KKK/WS cretins non-violently, show up unarmed and unprotected, sit down on the road …. what would happen?
The 1979 Greensboro Massacre shows us that they *will* use violence to main and kill. Should good people who confront cretinism simply let themselves become dead martyrs so that the ‘left’ can have the moral high ground? I’m sorry, at some point my self-preservation kicks in and I fight back.
The cretins in Charlottesville came armed with semi-automatic, and high-powered rifles. They marched around in the streets in military formations, in camo clothing, openly handling their guns (not simply shouldered guns, but in their hands, as if ready to use). They were *intentionally* provocative and intimidating, they were trying to incite a response.
Inevitably in these situations some hotheads from either ‘side’ are going to get into a shouting match, goading each other to throw the first punch. Once that happens –regardless of who actually throws the ‘first punch– the doorway to violence is open, and they will attack.
Do we just literally stand there and take bats to the head? The KKkretins actually shot pistols at one point in #Cville (and were not arrested, interestingly).
For those saying “don’t use violence”…. I’d truly like to see you stand there, unarmed and face off against the cretins. Put your money where your mouth is.
The cretins have now shot people (Seattle), and killed someone (Cville)… and they congratulated themselves about both online afterwards. This isn’t going to end any time soon. They are also being encouraged by the Administration & his pet media Breitbart. Fox is carrying water making false equivalencies.
The Admin reduced the FBI’s unit that monitors WhiteSupremacist/domestic terrorist groups earlier this year… they are clearing the way for militia/hard-right violence. Hard-rightists have been joining the military, and joining police forces… the chances that the forces of “law & order” will be there to protect us is far from clear.
If I catch Nazis et.al. doing shit in my town (smashing church signs, vandalizing people’s cars, etc.) I will sure as shit kkkick their asses.
You’ve blurred the lines between defending and attacking, just like most everyone else who is defending Antifa on this. You’ve ignored the strategic point about how your actions get perceived and the counterproductive impact that has, and how certain Antifa actions seem likely to escalate things – again, just like most everyone else who is defending Antifa on this. And you didn’t address what happened in Berkeley.
Fuzzy thinking and attitude are not what’s going to beat the white supremacists back down.
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Thank you for this.
Logan: I’m very happy to have stumbled across this and grateful to you for writing it.
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“In effect, I outsourced the sin of my violence to them. I asked them to get their hands dirty so I could keep mine clean. Do you understand? … We cannot claim to be pacifists or nonviolent when our safety requires another to commit violence, and we ask for that safety.”
Yeah. I understand. I have for a long time. Glad to see you removed the plank from your eye.
The untested and probably wrong assumption here is that our safety requires someone to commit the type of violence that antifa is being criticized for. I think that type of violence is much more likely to make us less safe, not more.
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Excellent write-up and thanks!
The comments, however, wow! There are a lot of people who have no real sense of what white supremacy actually means. I’d love to believe this is the last gasp, but the quantity of hate crimes doubled, in Albuquerque from 2015 to 2016. It seems to be something that is on the rise, rather than any last gasp.
White supremacist sympathy and bias are built into US culture. The USA was founded on white supremacy and built its fortune and power on white supremacy.
White supremacy was enshrined into the founding of this country with the three-fifths compromise. And while it is true to innovation was important for the US to enjoy its current level of success, the fact remains that the innovation required implementation, and much of that implementation was performed by terrorized, enslaved Africans and African-Americans. It was done on lands that were illegally stolen from American Indians, using resources that, too, were illegally stolen.
The US has offered weak and anemic apologies, but no actual reparations for these evil deeds. If you don’t believe that white supremacist sympathy is built into our culture, you need only consider an early 2000s study (I don’t remember which business school did this), where a business school sent out thousands of identical resumes across the country. The thing that changed on the resumes was the name, from a white sounding to a black sounding name, and (no surprise) black sounding names received significantly fewer calls for an interview.
I’d love to believe that we’re on the precipice of defeating white supremacy…in fact I did believe it for many years in my life, but I don’t believe it anymore. it is easy to sit on the sidelines (literally) and wag your finger at people who are being victimized, and whose ancestors have been victimized, black people, native people, brown people, gay people, etc… and tell us how we just need to be non-violent and wait until the evil passes. That is easy and lazy and dishonest! We have been waiting for hundreds of goddam years already!
I’m not for hunting white supremacists down and executing them, and I think that even their 1st amendment needs to be protected by law enforcement. And I believe that people of good conscience need to confront them and silence them. If they get violent, kick there asses! These fuckers burnt a cross on my mom’s lawn when I was a baby, because she was married to a white man.
Their ideology resulted in my mom being removed from her native family to be assimilated into white culture. She was abused for years, as the result of that. The same thing happened to my aunts and uncles.
If brown people are pissed off and feeling violent, it is a direct result of our having been abused, and our parents and grandparents and their grandparents having been abused by white culture. Don’t sit there telling us how we need to be patient a little longer…fucking change it or we’re going to defend ourselves…violently and that might include meeting some of these violent, terrorist fucks where they assemble, before they can organize enough to terrorize our whole communities again, as was tolerated by the sum of white culture for hundreds of years (and arguably is still tolerated today…though only via non-overt forms of terrorism).
If antifa is willing to stand with me and stop these terrorists from fucking up my country…great! I may not agree with some of their anarchist ideology, but I’m glad that someone has my back…for a goddam change!
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I miss some insight. For example there were completely nonviolent elder people on the “fascist” side and – would you believe it? – they felt that they the “men with brass knuckles” protected them against the antifa thugs.
You need not accept a moral equivalence. It is much more important that you see the psychological equivalence – persons are not really so much different from each other as you believe.
If you are comfortable being “protected” by the side with swaztikas who are chanting Nazi slogans, you’re on the wrong goddamned side.
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