Saturday, September 2, 2017

Why the Alt-Left Isn't the Answer To the Alt-Right

Normally I don't follow the entertainment world much, apart from deciding which movie I want to see or album I want to download. For one thing, I truly don't care what any of them have to say. It's nice that George Clooney thinks that Darfur is an atrocity - and, for the record, it is - but his intervention notwithstanding, not much is likely to change there unless a concerted effort by other nations is put forth.

Secondly, in case you haven't noticed, Hollywood isn't real popular with a majority of people these days. There's a justifiable resentment that those in the industry, for better or worse, live in a bubble where they can afford to poke their heads out and cherry pick the causes they believe in. Susan Sarandon's views on the 2016 election underscore just how completely detached many of these people are. In an interview on MSNBC, she told Chris Hayes that she thought a Trump presidency might be better for the country because he "will bring the revolution immediately, if he gets in. Then things will really, you know, explode."

Real people's lives have been profoundly impacted by this man since he was elected and the fate of the Republic is hanging in the balance, but, by all means, let's sit back and wait for an explosion so we can usher in Sarandon's revolution, like it's some fucking soap opera or TV drama series. Maybe HBO can call it Game of Schlongs. I swear you can't smack the shit out of these people enough for my tastes.

But on this particular occasion, I decided to read a piece in the Entertainment section of The Huffington Post, and all I can say is my blood began to boil. It was about the flack that Jessica Chastain has been getting over the comments she made on Twitter concerning the Charlottesville attack. Chastain was trying to make what I think is a valid point that responding to hatred with violence is not the solution. Well, apparently, that didn't go over very well with a number of people, and they made their feelings quite clear.

Here is one exchange that occurred between Chastain and a certain follower:

Chastain: Returning violence for violence multiplies violence. I'm here for changing the world through peaceful protests, calling my reps, and VOTING

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yavin: If we're gonna go with MLK, Jr. 

I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

Chastain: If the color of my skin is going to cause you to generalize, perhaps you shd look back over whether or not I've been silent to injustice.

Yavin:  I am merely saying that telling people who the "alt-right" want to kill not to fight back is not helpful. If someone wants to kill me debating them isn't going to help. Calling my reps isn't going to help me in that moment. Please listen to people without your privileges.

Chastain: Nonviolent protest has NOTHING to do with self defense.

There were a few others who chimed in on the thread, some positive, most negative. I encourage you to read them when you get the chance. The point is that a perfectly legitimate argument about the counter protesters in Charlottesville was dismissed by many because it didn't fit a certain narrative that they were looking to advance.

Take this Yavin clown, for instance. First he completely misinterprets one of Martin Luther King, Jr's most famous writings, and then compounds his ignorance by suggesting that Chastain's privilege somehow disqualifies her from being able have an informed opinion about the issue of racism and how to combat it. That is the height of arrogance.

Any thinking person, regardless of race or social status, knows full well that King detested violence of any sort. His entire life was devoted to peaceful resistance to bigotry. When he wrote about the disappointment he felt towards white moderates, he was referring to people who would not take a stand against injustice, but instead preferred what King called a "negative peace" over a "positive peace." 

To put it another way, what King is really saying is that many whites who were sympathetic to what he was fighting for didn't want to roll up their sleeves and march with him. They were the consummate arm-chair quarterbacks, completely justified in passing judgment, all while having no skin in the game. 

Nowhere in this writing, or any of his others, does King call for armed resistance to his oppressors. Like Paul before him, his imprisonment was its own form of justification. "My grace is sufficient for you," it is written in Second Corinthians, "for my power is made perfect in weakness." King's admonishment to white moderates was a warning to all of us that standing on the sidelines is not acceptable. As it is written in James, "Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds."

My point is that Chastain has nothing to apologize for. The subsequent tearful video she released on Twitter was totally unnecessary. She was right, even if the majority of people didn't agree with her. The alternative to the alt-right, isn't an alt-left. Mind you, I'm not inferring that we should accept that there is a false equivalence here. There is a huge difference between white supremacists and those who oppose them. But one can oppose racists without employing their tactics and methods. 

Just look at what happened in Boston as a prime example. A large group of counter-protesters showed up and peacefully spoke out against the bigotry of the alt-right protesters. Not one punch was throw, or shot fired, and the entire world got to see first hand the correct way of confronting hatred. They honored the memory MLK and, by their actions, set an example for how all of us should respond.

If history has taught us anything, it's that the forces of evil will never relent. Even now, far-right conservatives are attempting to reframe this "debate" by saying it's just about statues. We cannot take the bait. It is much more than mere statues. It is about what those statues represent to a certain segment of the population, and we must never let anyone forget that.

But attempting to silence those we vehemently disagree with is not the answer. We will not be successful if we lose the moral high ground. Violent counter protests, be they in Charlottesville, Virginia or Berkeley, California, will only serve to make the ridiculous "both sides" claim offered by Donald Trump seem that much more palatable to some. As Jelani Cobb wrote in The New Yorker:
Trump exudes a malign charisma, and witnessing its appeal and the license that it grants him has been destabilizing for a wide swath of the left. Some of Trump’s opponents have said that they are waiting for a Reichstag fire—a false crisis that will be used to justify the Administration’s worst instincts. We have not yet encountered such a moment, but the clear dictate of common sense is that no one should be in the business of providing this President with matches.

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