The Next Step After Charlottesville

sherman

I haven’t published much of anything on this site in 2017. I’ve been busy; a wedding and honeymoon will do that to you. I’ve also had very little to say, though perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I haven’t figured out how to say it. I think I’m turning a corner.

It’s been a very uncomfortable 7+ months with a president who is equal parts inflammatory and incompetent. We’ve seen the widening rift between the American left and right grow into a daunting chasm. I’ve done most of my riffing on these topics on Twitter, which is admittedly not the best forum for rational and measured thinking. The current mode and tenor of anti-Trump rhetoric feels weaker than it ought to be. It’s neither persuasive to those on the fence nor transformative for those allied to him and his cause. It’s masturbatory virtue signaling. It accomplishes nothing but to make ourselves feel better about ourselves.

Charlottesville feels like a turning point for me. It’s time to work on campaigning with an outward strategy rather than an inward one.

There’s a venom growing within members of our society that cannot be tolerated. Call it white nationalism, the alt-right, white supremacy, neo-nazism — whatever. It stands against everything I am as a person. It stands against everything I believe America is as a country.

There’s a growing grassroots movement that stands in opposition to white nationalism. Its current form is a loose coalition of different people and groups intent on resisting fascism and racism.  It needs to strengthen itself through advocacy, activism, and a determination of why/how it pursues its goals. There’s a sizable gulf between staunch nonviolence and Antifa-style confrontationalism. I believe that nonviolence is the best approach, though the group should be prepared for a fight should self-defense be required.

I’m a big believer in the power of symbols; like-minded people need emblems upon which to strengthen their bond. It can be something striking like the famous Obama “Hope” poster or something simple like a red “Make America Great Again.” I guess you can think of it as branding, but I hate that word so maybe let’s not. Regardless, symbols are color of a movement, they are the motifs that ground a calling in consistency. Luckily enough, the perfect bits of iconography for a nation-wide counter-protest are already sitting right beneath our noses.

The next time white nationalists have a rally, I’d love if the counter-protesters drowned them out with Union Army hymns. They should come dressed in blue. They should wave American and Union Army flags. I think this would be a meaningful and persuasive approach to standing ground against a despicable ideology.

Here’s my rationale: Confederate fetishists love to see themselves as carriers of a torch lit by their southern forebears. Counter-protesters should demonstrate that they (we) too carry the torch of their (our) predecessors: Lincoln’s cause. The Union’s Cause. America’s cause. “As He died to make men holy / let us live to make men free!”

White supremacists seek validation and acceptance from the masses. The best way to deny them this is to employ the power of patriotic symbols to frame white nationalism as counter to American values. There’s nothing more patriotic than waving an American flag in the face of a Nazi. There’s no better way to troll a white supremacist than to blare songs about Sherman’s March to the Sea. There’s no stronger rebuttal of unamerican sentiments than a firm affirmation of what America is all about.

Counter-protesters should 1) refrain from violence unless pressed to defend themselves and 2) work on a campaign to persuade fence-sitters that their cause is the true American one. I find that “the resistance,” as it were, struggles because it has not found for itself anything consistent to rally around. The solution is to take back the concept of American patriotism and embrace our own cultural inheritance: The Union Forever.

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