“They started by rationalizing Trump. They ended by rationalizing slavery.” — Bill Kristol
Actually, it goes back farther than that. Beginning in the 1980’s, with Willie Horton and Welfare Queens, conservatives began to send out a coded message that “they” were cheating people and taking money they should not have. It quickly became a movement that included outrageous sentences for anyone who committed a crime, with an incarceration policy that has given us the most prisoners in jail of any country in the world, as well as a high recidivism rate and a low rehabilitation rate. Taxes for the common good became equated with theft, so that now we wonder why our infrastructure is falling apart and why Texas has an infant/maternal mortality rate that is the worst in the developed world. Workers’ protection was also seen as theft, and their protections have been slowly chipped away, so that wages have remained static while CEO compensation has risen to almost immoral amounts (except that it is never immoral for CEOs to make more money without giving more money to the workers who earned them the money). Undocumented immigrants were blamed for crime, for taking away jobs from Americans (who did not want them and would not take them), etc.
Despite warnings from various people, that this was hidden racism, conservatism pushed back and said that it was the left who was using language to demean true conservative principles. And the coded language continued. The Tea Party rose up and added a patriotic sheen to the opposition to affirmative actions, calmly ignoring the fact that minorities have yet to have the same percentage in many professions as their percentage in the general population. The differences were laid at the feet of the very minorities. The old arguments were brought back. It is because there are only rare good black husbands. It is because Appalachian families are lazy moonshiners. The false statement was brought back that America is the land of opportunity in such a way that if anyone tries, anyone could be President, or could be rich, etc. But, eventually, this justified even looking at families where both parents were working, but having trouble making ends meet, and telling them that it was their fault, regardless of circumstances. So, at the end, even a faithful family, with a faithful husband and wife, could not be helped in any way because it was their fault that they were poor. Mercy became identified as little more than incidental charity, to be given with the expectation that the recipient would fawn over those richer having deigned to look at them. It was the 19th century heresy of the “deserving poor” come back full strength.
At the end, the message got through, white nationalism came roaring back. There was a conspiracy in the land to suppress white identity. There was a conspiracy in the land to take over “their” country. “Take our country back,” became the biggest coded message of all, and now we have a President who has trouble making statements about what happened in Charlottesville. “Take our country back,” told the white nationalists that they were correct. “Take our country back,” was supposedly about the left, but was actually not. Now, over the last few days, the term alt-left has even been invented to perpetuate the notion that there is this leftist conspiracy to take over and turn this into a Marxist dictatorship. Do you remember when the Governor of Texas actually called out that National Guard over the utterly false conspiracy that the yearly summer military exercise in Texas was going to be used by President Obama as the beginning of a national takeover? Do you remember the talk of Obama concentration camps? At the end, conspiracies became everything. At the end, fake news became true news in the eyes of the true believers. At the end true news were called fake news, if even one slight error was spotted in any news story. At the end, even accurate news stories–such as the size of the inauguration crowd–were labeled as fake news. Truth became false, and lies became truth.
In response to this, the old name of an anti-fascist group from the 1930’s was brought back. That is how Antifa started here, and at this time. Their opposition is a correct opposition. However, as one who is committed to peaceful change, I deeply object to their violent methods. They argue that history shows that fascism must be met with violence, if necessary. I side with the Rev. Martin Luther King and would argue that peaceful change is the better way to go. I am also troubled by the thought that individuals have the right to take up arms that quickly. Let’s face it, Antifa people did come with helmets and sticks. Our government has not yet come to the point that would legitimize individuals resorting to violence in order to bring change. I would hate to end up with right-wing militias fighting left-wing militias with the government in the middle. That is the danger of responding with violence at an inappropriate time in an inappropriate manner.
Yet, Antifa is correct. Fascism and nationalism must be opposed. It is time for the statues to be taken down. There is no special Southern heritage that must be preserved, although it is important for this country to not forget Southern history. Notice that there are significantly more statues of Civil War figures than of Underground Railway figures. This is not surprising. The statues were–and are–coded messages from the early 20th century that the South shall rise again. Well, the South is rising again, but the South is really over the whole country, and it is time to get rid of coded messages. The statues must go. We can remember Southern history, if we remember it as a whole. Let us remember the Southern slave gospel songs, the great Isaac Watts gospel songs, country music, clogging, square dancing, Southern cooking, Creole Louisiana cooking, etc. Yes, let us have some preserved plantation homes, in the same way that Great Britain has some preserved castles, as purely buildings of historical interest. But, let us make it clear to the citizens of this country that Southern heritage cannot, and must not, include the coded message that there was an innocent culture present that has been maligned. That culture was not maligned. It owned slaves; it refused to give up slaves; it cannot justify itself by appealing to other slave-owning cultures of the past. This was a recalcitrant culture that finally mounted an attack on the Union and had to be stopped. The statues must go.
And, yes, Antifa needs to stop using violence. Try the way of peaceful opposition, lest you darken your souls.