Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Alt-Left

There was no Alt-Left until Trump invented it.  Actually, all our wordsmith president said was “There is blame on both sides” and some journalist made up “Alt-Left” as a counter to Alt-Right (an umbrella label for right-wing extremist groups).

So, who makes up the Alt-Left?  As the Alt-Right actually exists, it’s easier to define its membership.  So, the Alt-Right consists of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, white supremacists, some extreme NRA members, Hell’s Angels, Vigilante groups, Survivalist groups.  More than anyone else, they tend to be white and Christian and male and straight, even if most white Christian straight males are not Alt-Right themselves.  They believe that they alone are true Americans.  They are not just conservative, they are fringe conservative.

As there really isn’t any Alt-Left, we are free to make it up as long as it fits the anti-protestors in Charlottesville.  If the Alt-Right is exclusionist, the Alt-Right must begin as inclusionist.  So, Communists, socialists, Bernie Sanders, unions, LGBTQIA people, non-whites, non-Christians, and anyone whose identity as an American is insecure.  So, fringe liberal.

When these two groups clash, it is possible to imagine them refighting the Civil War, the Alt-Left fighting as the Union and the Alt-Right as the Confederacy.  But a real war this time would go the other way, as Alt-Right types tend to own firearms and Alt-Left types do not.

The only good thing I can say about this labelling and this division, is it is better that it be out in the open than underground.  If our democracy can’t handle it, so be it.

Y'all should take in the memorial service for Heather Heyer, the girl who was killed in Charlottesville, especially her Mom's trenchant eulogy that begins some 50:00 minutes into the service and her Dad's touching eulogy some 14:00 minutes in.  The Left, whether Alt-Left or ordinary Left, needs to listen.  The idea is to speak up, make noise, be heard; otherwise you get what you get, a world defined by others.

Addendum: Saturday, 08/19/2017
The issues have got fuzzy lately, so let me be clear what I believe.

I support "free speech" even when it is "hate speech."  It is behavior that needs to be regulated, not thoughts, beliefs, or the spoken word.  When words become actions, then we can invoke the law.  It is possible for speech to become harassment when it is imposed on an unwilling listener, and coercive speech ought not to be legal.  See my Free Speech post.

With Trump and Bill Maher, I stand against political correctness.  I am on the side of free speech (with the caveats that I talk about in the link above), even when it is offensive.  What offends you may feed me.  Some university campuses have instituted "free speech zones," where someone who might be politically incorrect is free to speak his mind.  Other campuses have set aside "safe spaces" where someone who wants to be protected from offensive speech can go for shelter.  I approve safe spaces but not free speech zones, because I value free speech more than protection from offensive speech.  Universities are not where you go if you want to be safe from controversy.  On the other hand, I will undoubtedly shun those who make a virtue out of rudeness and incivility (like our Tweeter in Chief).

I may "attend" a neo-Nazi rally out of curiosity or even to mock them or bait them.  If someone posts a photo of me at this neo-Nazi rally, automatically I am branded as one of them.  Sloppy thinking, dangerous thinking, stupid thinking.  Heaven forbid I am caught reading The Communist Manifesto while I ride the Metro; does this make me a Communist?  Or Hitler's Mein Kampf; does this make me a Nazi?  Guilt by being captured in someone's photo?  Guilt by being caught reading?

There are differences between the Left and Right when it comes to violence (which is illegal on its face).  The ideology of much of the Right includes violence (e.g., KKK, Nazis).  The Left has a tendency to endorse non-violence as part of its ideology (Civil Rights, LGBT rights, anti-war rallies, etc).  The Right also tends to like guns and the Left not so much.  Once again, the two sides are not "equivalent" when it comes to violence.

Finally (?), a word about Confederate statuary.  Personally, I don't like it.  Secession was treason.  And the South lost the Civil War.  But the vast majority of Confederate soldiers were not slave holders, nor were they fighting for the right to own slaves, they were fighting for their home lands!  They fought side by side with their kin.  Nothing more.  And General Robert E Lee was a traitor to the Union.  But he was a good and decent man, who chose to fight on behalf of his country (Virginia).  But who am I to tell white Southerners how to live?  If white Mississippians want to keep their Confederate statuary knowing it is a form of sticking it to black Mississippians, well, what then?  Let them fight it out at a state or even local level, a political fight, that is.  The white majority will not always prevail; cooler heads often overrule stupid beliefs that ought to be put to rest.  Sometimes progress is slow; progress that happens too fast often has unintended consequences.  And not every best solution is simple.