I originally posted this on my personal Facebook profile earlier today, but the more I think about it, the more I feel it applies to social media in general. I’m not sharing this here to talk you into agreeing with me or to invite you to tell me why you don’t. I’m sharing it in the hope that perhaps it might encourage people to consider things from a perspective other than their own, just as other people’s blogs, posts and articles encourage me to do.
Content warning for mentions of hate groups, violence and my usual delightful turn of phrase.
So, fucking nazis and people’s responses to their activities. I’ve been trying to think of something to say about this because I want to say something. I honestly believe it’s time that everyone said something. So this might not be the most eloquent or palatable of somethings, but it’s where I’m at, so here goes…
I’ve seen a lot of “OMG this is so shocking!” posts. And it is shocking. It’s horrible and awful and shocking. If some people don’t appear to be as shocked as you, remember that rather than it being because they don’t care, it may be because the thing that is shocking to you has already formed part of the landscape of their existence for so long that it no longer surprises them. And possibly when they’ve talked about it before, they’ve been dismissed, ignored, disbelieved or shut down. I’m not saying don’t express your shock, horror, rage or whatever. I’m just saying that when other people don’t, it might not be for the reasons you assume.
I’ve also seen a lot of images being shared, from pictures of recent white supremacist marches to depictions of violence in the not-so-distant past to photographs from wars that most people reading this weren’t alive to see. While those might be important images to share, especially if you are part of a community or a demographic that may not have a strong awareness of the things they depict, please remember that some people seeing them have witnessed or experienced those traumatic events first-hand. I’m not saying don’t share those pictures. I’m just saying please respect that not everyone can cope with looking at them for perfectly valid reasons.
I’ve seen a few people saying, “If you respond to violence with violence, you’re just as bad”. I get this on some level. Sometimes there are different ways to respond to a situation without being violent and often those are more productive and less damaging options. But when your safety and survival (or the safety and survival of someone else) are being threatened, fighting back is sometimes the only option. I’m not saying don’t try to find non-violent approaches where you can. I’m just saying that unless you have literally fought for your own survival, kept throwing punches as you lost consciousness, protected someone who couldn’t defend themselves by putting your own body between them and the person trying to hurt them, please try and understand that your hypothetical situation is someone else’s lived experience and maybe you don’t get to tell them how they should have reacted.
Also, it’s really easy to tell someone, in private, “I agree with you. I support you. I’m on your side.” That is a valuable and important thing to do. But it’s also, if not more, important to stand up and state that position openly when you have the opportunity. Yes, trust in the world in general can be damaged by strangers doing terrible things. But trust in the people close to you, which is arguably more meaningful, can be absolutely obliterated to the point of no return by their choosing to remain silent when it really matters.
And another thing. “You have to respect everyone’s opinion equally” is bullshit. If someone’s opinion is that other people are less than human because of their ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, gender, or mental or physical dis/ability, no-one has to respect that. If someone’s opinion is that other people should be denied human rights, imprisoned, or killed, because of those things, no-one has to respect that either. There is a massive difference between “I politely disagree with your views on an intellectual level” and “You should not be allowed to exist because you are different from me in harmless ways that are inherent to your identity”.
If you feel the need to play devil’s advocate, don’t. If you feel the need to qualify anything you say with “I’m not a nazi/white supremacist/fascist/total cunt, but…”, don’t. If you feel the need to say “It’s not that bad” simply because it hasn’t been that bad for you personally or for people you know in the place where you live (yet), don’t
Choosing to not take a stance on issues of politics and human rights is a privilege and a luxury that not everyone has. If you want to know “what you would do, if…”, take a look at yourself right now. Because you’re already doing it.