This Is Not America
Remarking on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend, Julian Assange tweeted a picture of it with the words, "The new face of America is eerily familiar."
With all due respect to Mr. Assange for his advancement of truly relevant journalism in our era, what we all saw happen in Charlottsville, Virginia is not the new face of America.
A few hundred of these eccentric, openly racist, angry young men do not speak for or represent all of us.
They hardly speak for any of us at all.
The shock, disgust, and outrage at their racist and divisive message was nearly universal over the weekend.
On social media, America resoundingly thundered its disapproval of the racist alt-right groups, and its heartbreak and disbelief at the appalling murder of Heather Heyer by one of the demonstrators.
It's hard for most of us to believe that in this day and age anybody can think the kind of things that these alt-right groups say.
A white supremacist speaker at the rally, Richard Spencer, is the one that coined the term "alt-right" and once ran a website at the domain "AlternativeRight.com."
He says that white people are superior to other races, complains that the "white race" is "dispossessed," and dreams of creating a white nation in North America in which non-whites are not allowed.
People who share his views are in the extreme minority.
They are bizarre stragglers in the upward march of human history, with beliefs that have been discarded by the rest of us long ago.
But that doesn't mean they can't be dangerous, as the wanton evil that unfolded from the rally organized by Jason Kessler this weekend too painfully revealed.
So it feels gratifying to watch the video of Kessler's press conference on Sunday, from which he had to flee, literally for his life, as angry counter-protesters menacingly closed in on him.
When someone punched Richard Spencer in the face in January, many conservatives and libertarians said that his words are reprehensible, but shouldn't be met with violence.
But his words are an incitement to violence. After the horrors of the 20th century, we know where his words lead.
It's a serious problem that comparisons to Hitler are thrown around far too carelessly in political discourse today.
Because Spencer and Kessler are actually, overtly trying to stir up the same worst aspects of humanity that Hitler conjured with his nationalism, and ethnocentrism, and bigotry.
So we Americans, who value free speech so highly that there are still statues of defeated rebel leaders in the nation they rose up against 150 years later, might just be drawing the line in the right place when it comes to what kind of speech is tolerable.
It may be a sign of a healthy society that someone looking for the kind of trouble that Jason Kessler and his followers are after, might be driven out of town by an angry crowd.
But that video is also terrifying to watch. Because those counter-protesters really might have killed him if the police hadn't helped him escape. Or beat him to a bloody pulp.
And that would not have been right at all.
His message should be met with fierce hostility everywhere he takes it, but an angry mob, devastated by the personal loss of a member of their community, is not the one to mete out justice.
Justice must be cold and unfeeling. It must be deliberative and noble.
An angry mob does not stand on the foundation of centuries of jurisprudence, nor act to honor the wisdom of the past. And does not carefully consider the kind of future its actions create.
An angry mob is a group of people under a spell, animated by the heat of the moment, often with horrible consequences.
And we already saw what that looks like on Saturday.
We are all very lucky it didn't happen again on Sunday.
Because if that crowd had badly beaten Kessler up or killed him, you can be sure the violence would be revisited on another counter-protester like Heather Heyer at a future white nationalist rally.
I can't stop myself from suggesting that her death this weekend might have been the not-equal and opposite reaction of the punch Spencer took in January.
Or the not-equal and opposite reaction of the extremist Antifa counter-protesters that physically attacked the Nazi marchers on Saturday.
That's how blood feuds work. One side hurts the other. The other side retaliates and does something worse. The first side strikes back and escalates the violence even further.
The responsibility you have in all of this is to stop taking part in any kind of mob, which includes online mobs.
While they don't kill anyone directly, the toxic, bitter, angry words they spew are polluting people's minds.
All of us must stop dehumanizing people by grouping other human beings together under a label and treating them with abuse.
It happens online every day; especially, in political dialogue. The way we talk to each other about controversial social issues online is so often charged with seething resentment and disrespect.
You may know that you're not unhinged and would never drive a car into a crowd of people or even punch anyone. But there are people right on the edges and they're breathing the foul air online.
The world is a strange and beautiful place, and we can all live to our fullest potential in it and find happiness if we strive to live our lives as noble individuals, and treat others that way.
The answer to the alt-right's nightmare rally is a fervent commitment to defending the inherent dignity, worth, and supremacy of every human being in their own right as an individual.