Ok, this was supposed to be my editing day, and boy does my play need it. I’m on a deadline; submittal by the end of August or it’s out of the running for another year. BUT a) at least I’m halfway there, and B) I kind of can’t concentrate. B is bigger because it’s far more important.
I’m one of those people who has always been comforted by the fact white supremacists (or Nazis; either way, call them what they are, always call them what they are) are fringe. That they’re not the majority by a long shot. That the majority is made up chiefly by older folk, so hope comes with the newest generations.
But that’s not entirely the case.
All the above is true, but only to a point. Let’s break it down:
Older folk? Yes, there are a lot of older folks. But there were far more younger folks involved than I expected or cared to see (far more folks involved than I care to see generally, even one is more than I care to see).
Fringe? Yes. Yes, they are still a fringe. It was horrifying to see hundreds gathered together like that, but remember they came from all over. They weren’t just from that area. So there still aren't that many, they're spread out. But the other thing to realize is that there are more than you think. According to the current stats provided by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 917 hate groups operating in the U.S.
And those are just the people who feel free to be open about it.
Now. I don’t want to dwell on the bad stuff. That’s not the point of this post. It’s important to know all the above. Information is important. Information is key. White supremacy is a cancer. And the first step to eradicating cancer or any disease is knowledge.
So what do we do about it?
I’m don’t have all the answers. I may not have any answers. But one thing was painfully obvious from the march.
They want to make us angry. More than that; they want us to get fired up and attack. They want to make us be like them.
Just that. No.
But how can we stay calm; or at least, calm enough to put our anger to work constructively? How can we when we see those pictures, hear those eyewitness accounts? That car driving into that crowd. I never knew Heather Heyer, but I can guaran-damn-tee she didn’t want to be a martyr. All those injured. The crowd turning and beating on the group of young kids by the campus statue (late teens to college age, yes, I call that KIDS) simply because the crowd was large and the group was small. Those kids had more guts than any member of the crowd.
Mob rule does not give you courage. It amplifies your cowardice.
Those kids were raised to be kind. They were raised to understand that differences do not equal fear.
Your upbringing is far from the only factor to who you become (and you are continually becoming, the process never ends). But it’s a good place to start.
(Quick note here, this post is about improving the world generally, and about how to start. There is more to it, much more that we can do, particularly in this case. This is just. A. Start.)
One way I’m doubling down, doing something about this, is to teach my kids. The older two fairly well understand the basic concepts of equality and kindness; but it never hurts to remind them, and frame it in as many different ways as possible. I don’t tell them all the news. They’re kids; they don’t need to worry about it. But I do tell them some (only tell, I never show video or photo if it’s disturbing), because I want them to understand how complicated the world can be, and how humans do not always do the right thing (and that things don't get any easier when you get older). I will be telling them about Charlottesville. I will be teaching them about white supremacists. I will be underlining how hate and fear so easily turn to evil. How mobs amplify that too.
Just because other people are doing it…
My youngest is too little to understand. But he’s not too young to learn. Three is typically an age where the child becomes more aware of themselves as a “self”; here’s where things like jealousy and selfishness start to come out. I’m going to take the time to explain to him, simply, how things like sharing are good.
This one is a special case because he’s my stereotypical “boy”; any sport with a ball, getting outside, running and playing, all in his wheelhouse. He also likes guns. And fighting.
I haven’t anything against that to a point. Even as a grown-up, there may come a time when you need to fight. There may even come a time when you need a gun, though I sincerely hope not in either case. But both of those are far from the only ways to solve a conflict. So, a) I’ll concentrate on teaching him other ways to fix problems, and b) also redirect his attention to a different, more peaceful, game (the easier of the two options with a three year old, but the first option will have its time soon enough).
I’ll teach these things to my kids; and I’ll live it myself. We all of us make judgments based on appearance. All of us. It’s hard-wired into our tiny monkey brains. But we don’t have to be ruled by it.
Recognize each other’s differences, and appreciate them. The world would be such a boring place if we were all the same. Spread acceptance. Spread niceness. Here are some ideas. Feel free to add:
And that’s pretty much it. Yes, some people are just plain jerks. But most people aren’t. And the kinder we treat each other, the more we will see that.
People are complicated. We are capable of great depths of hatred and evil. But we are also capable of dizzying heights of kindness and altruism.
They’ve sunk into those depths. It’s time for the rest of us to climb.
Writer, dancer, actress, mother, me.