A Time To Choose
"We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."-Elie Wiesel
Since the events in #Charlottesville, it seems a national discussion has erupted about the best way to deal with the emboldened Neo Nazis and White Nationalists who have squirmed out into the light. These are people who are advocating for the extermination of entire races. They are not your racist uncle who uses epithets casually at the dinner table, although we need to talk about him sometime too.
We cannot fall back on Constitutional Rights at times like these.
"I'm just defending the first amendment" many say when suggesting that racists and bigots and their speech should be tolerated. And of course, this is true. Our Constitution demands it.
But we're not talking about that. We are talking about Domestic Terrorists.
We are talking about people in #Charlottesville who chanted words used in Hitler's Germany as more than 6 million Jews were rounded up, sent to concentration camps, and exterminated. We are talking about people who came to the gathering so heavily armed that the police were afraid to intervene because they knew they were outgunned. We are talking about people who believe that no one but white people should exist in America, and are willing to shed blood to make it so. We are talking about people who carry symbols of the elimination and subjugation of others over centuries.
In other words, these were not peaceful protesters gathering to express abhorrent ideas protected under the First Amendment.
Using the Constitution as a shield is a form of neutrality designed to protect ourselves from taking a stand when faced with the uncomfortable realization that dangerous and evil people exist in our country. It allows us to abdicate personal responsibility to oppose those advocating for the elimination of entire races. It provides cover when we are faced with difficult decisions about what is right and what is wrong.
History tells us that a continuum into societal evil exits. Small steps are ignored and become normalized.They build on each other eventually reaching a point of no return.
We can learn from history if we choose to. We can stop ignoring and normalizing the small steps. We can stand up and say that one's right to free speech does not include the right to advocate for the death of others.
But doing so means shedding the safety of the Constitution and recognizing that the rights of free speech and free assembly should, and do, have limits.
It is time to choose.
Will we stand back and ignore the small steps as they build until it is too late to act? Will we side with the oppressors with our silence? Or will stand up on the side of the oppressed and say "NO"?