It’s a trite thing to say, but the United States stands at a crossroad. We have as president, elected via electoral college, a mean-spirited, selfish buffoon who takes pride in his boorish behavior. He courted the angriest and most frustrated factions of the country during his election, and, long after getting elected, still refuses to denounce even the most heinous acts of white supremacy. He spends his days shouting at anyone who dares even consider opposing him and vehemently refuses to reflect upon his own statements or actions.
Donald Trump’s presidency is supported at its basest levels by fascism. He denounces a free press, mocks and derides those who are different from him, and blames the failings of our government not on the people running it, but outsiders. He encourages violence and denies any sort of fault when challenged.
The recent violence in Charlottesville, Virgina, is a direct result of this behavior. Trump could never say he condones white supremacy; it would be political suicide. Instead, he pays subtle lip service to their cause, insisting that “both sides” of the protestwere to blame for the violence that erupted.
Many people defend freedom of speech with the phrase “I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.” I don’t like that phrase. Not because it isn’t clever, but because it is used to defend actions that undo free speech. Lots of people are clambering over themselves to protect the freedoms of Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, and other fascists. This should stop. Defending fascism under the veil of free speech endangers the very concept of liberty. Ignoring something that offends you is healthy; ignoring a person who wishes to rescind the rights of others is dangerous.
This is a key thing that so many seem to ignore: in protecting the speech of fascists, you are in effect allowing them to destroy free speech. The alt-right quite literally want to destroy our current way of life. They want to disassemble the freedoms promised to all citizens and return to a world where their skin color alone makes them superior.
White supremacists of all kinds, including their weaker counterparts, the men’s rights and white rights movements, are incredibly dangerous. Despite coming from backgrounds that historically face little to no oppression, they demand to be heard over people that do. They seek to replaces facts with lies and become upset when someone different from them expects to be treated with same level of respect and decency that white supremacists demand. They attempted to quell Black Lives Matter with “All Lives Matter,” as if the former was in any way meant to imply other lives didn’t.
It shouldn’t be necessary to point it out, but the perspective that these groups put forth is factually inaccurate. They claim they are being oppressed, despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of government and private sector leaders in this country are white men. Their claims of some kind of overall genetic superiority that have never proven true. Their belief that focusing on diversity will result in hiring unskilled or unworthy employees is nonsensical and insulting.
The truth is that white supremacists can’t admit their own failings and lack the capacity for self-reflection. Their entire premise is based around the belief that they simply cannot be wrong, cannot be held accountable. Every problem they face is someone else’s fault: immigrants, black people, socialists. Whatever failings in their education or upbringing brought this about don’t matter.
Some people make efforts to understand these groups, and attempting to address the failings in society that feed fascist organizations is noble. But the overwhelming majority of people who hold this mindset aren’t going to change. You can’t force empathy upon people who can look another in the face and deny their humanity. All humans are capable of change, but the most hard-headed won’t do so over a persuasive essay or polite discussion.
If one does not speak out against white supremacy or fascism, they allow it to flourish. There is no reason to protect the free speech of one who would deny the same to others.