Terrorism is a form of violent protest.
The standard dictionary definition of "Terrorism" is "the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims."
The standard dictionary definition of "White Supremacy" is "the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races, especially the black race, and should therefore dominate society."
So, more accurately, white supremacy is not terrorism but a bigoted and hateful belief that when incorporating the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims becomes terrorism.
"White Supremacy is Terrorism when White Supremists use Terrorism as a tactic." Not really sexy enough for a meme but certainly more correct, yes?
As I read the news of the riots in Charlottesville on Saturday, my overriding thought was to keep my emotions in check.
I remember in the 1980s when Operation Rescue mounted their anti-abortion offensive, and despite my more conservative bent at the time (I wised up pretty quickly after voting for Reagan and then actually going beyond the rhetoric and hyperbole by reading a bit more in depth about the policies enacted), I was furious at the anger and vitriol of their "protest." I had been involved in other left leaning protests earlier in my life (primarily anti-nuclear environmental ones) and I was bolstered by the rage and defiance of those protests.
The disconnect has had me focus in other arenas than protest because they almost always devolve into potential violence which almost always ceases to be about the ideas being protested.
One side of my brain speaks that all protest, in order to be effective, must be violent, at least in rhetoric and hyperbole. In some cases, it has to be violent in practice. I consider the Weatherman of the 1960s to be heroes because they charted a path of destruction of the very financial institutions that paid for the war. I consider the KKK to be villains for fomenting violence against churches that proliferated the empowerment of Civil Rights by doing almost the same thing the Weatherman did to banks. Both organizations were violent. Both used terrorism as their model. The only difference is my belief in one cause and disgust at the other.
The other side of my brain tells me that, as the ACLU continues to double down upon, "without free speech protections, all civil rights advocacy could be shut down by the people in power, precisely because government doesn’t agree with the ideas activists advance." Freedom of Speech is not the freedom to incite violence but, in a new social construct that posits that speech is violence, the definitions become increasingly perilous.
Another chunk of cerebellum raises his hand. "Protests tend to get violent and thus enter into the realm of terrorism when the issues are made out as moral imperatives. Ignorant people can be taught. Sinners must repent or be punished. Make the ideas sinful to think and all bets are off."
The best part of my brain quietly informs me that there is no black and white to this question. It's all frustratingly grey. In a world of grey, we have to rely on the belief that most Americans will eventually find the correct way. Not the moral high ground but the finest compromise of ideals as that is the very definition of a democracy and the exact opposite of nation-states at war. Compromise sucks for everyone but keeps us relatively safe. But how to compromise with those willing to buy Pottery Barn Tiki Torches and march against the removal of a statue that celebrates the near breaking of the nation over a horrifying genocide and subjugation of human beings?
Both organizations were violent. Both used terrorism as their model. The only difference is my belief in one cause and disgust at the other.
I balk against the online yelling that "If you voted for Trump, you did this!" for the same reason that I ignored the claims that by voting for Obama, I was personally responsible for his drone strikes that killed civilians overseas. It's too simplistic. It doesn't really help.
I'm also frustrated that a protest by arguably less idiots than could fill a college auditorium, from a segment of the population that has been shrinking for a solid decade in numbers, received so much media attention. That this incident (combined with the dumb, violent terrorist jackass with a Dodge Charger and dead eyes killed people) will become just another attempt to get something to stick to Trump as if it will change anything in the next few years.
The Spock in me wants to look at it logically; the Kirk in me wants to go beat some Nazi racist ass. One thing I know—boiling it down to reductive memes is what Trump and his horde of Idiot Savants do, so maybe it's not what we should do.
I have few conclusions.
• America is not a place where Nazis and White Nationalists should be allowed a place at the table (and, according to the ADL, both have been on a consistent decline in membership since 2009) but that you don't cure cancer by screaming at it.
• Freedom of Speech is sacrosanct in a country founded upon it as a guiding principle and that any sacrifice of that is to the detriment of all.
• Freedom of Speech is not, however, Freedom from the Consequences of Speech and that encapsulates the Neo-Nazi and Google Ass both getting fired as well as the Guy Who Gets Fired for Wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt to work. We built this construct where offensive ideas are considered violence, we have to live in it whether the ideas are offensive to us or not.
• The solutions to these issues lay in the unsexy work of politics: prison reform (from a punitive model to a rehabilitative model), the ending of gerrymandering, the renewed vigor for voter's rights, the dismantling of the Electoral College and a genuine focus on the part of the Left to reign in the unbridled financial gains of the wealthiest and increasing taxation to pay for education, economic growth in our poorest regions and slavery reparations.
The most important thing I feel is essential in all of this is the simple fact that cooler heads prevail.