There is a steep cost to having the luxury of free speech. As a nation we praise the first amendment; believing that people having the right to say what they want is the first step in building a democracy. I’ve seen both the scholar and the fool expound on their constitutional right to speak their minds; and, as long as they don’t yell “fire!” in a crowded movie theater, their right to speak, whether wise philosophy or dim-witted drivel, is protected.
But what if it’s more than drivel that is spewed forth from a so-called citizen’s mouth? What if it’s actual hate-speech? What if your right to assemble and say whatever you want leads to murder? That is what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12, 2017. The gathering of cowardly bigots led to three deaths; one death caused by a Nazi, white supremacist who rammed his car into a group of people, killing a woman who should be alive today. Now look at my last sentence. In 2017 I was able to say that a Nazi caused a women’s death on American soil. Should your first amendment rights be protected if it incites death? Should it be illegal for American citizens to wave a flag of a defeated enemy? Beyond the racism, this is the part of this pathetic scenario I truly don’t understand. Why would you want to wave the Nazi flag?
I was an idealistic little shit when I was a child. I did not see color and thought that the stuff I learned about racism in school was truly in the past and had no bearing on my current life. When I expressed my opinions to my older family members I was either greeted with a knowing, rueful smile or emphatically told that, “You’ll find out the truth someday.” I indeed found out the truth when I got older: racism is still alive and well and it’s not going anywhere. Sadly, I now expect to be confronted with racism during any point of my life without exemption. What I don’t expect however is to see full-grown men waving a Nazi flag and nothing happens to them. I have no doubt that these scumbags would label themselves as patriots; staunch supporters of America and shining examples of our citizenship. The irony seems to be lost on these guys that they are picking up the flag of one of America’s (and the world’s) greatest enemies.
Do you remember the Clayton Bigsby skit from the Dave Chappelle show? The one about the blind, white supremacist who happens to be black? My favorite scene is when Clayton is unhooded; exposed as a black man, and one of his loyal followers’ head explodes at the mere sight of something that, in his mind, just does not go together. I feel like that headless kid whenever I see Americans sympathizing and being loyal to Nazi principals. You want to hate other races because you’re white and the world is extra tough on you sweetheart, then fine. But to pick up the Nazi flag, the same flag that our grand and great-grandparents fought against so valiantly blows my mind. How can one even imagine reconciling the Nazi and American flag? How does that work in these people’s minds? Which flag do they represent? Because it cannot be both.
Michelle Obama is generally revered and seen as a wonderful first lady. Her popularity is on the same playing field – and sometimes exceeds – her husbands. On the campaign trail during Barack’s first run however, she came under fire for stating, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” Of course, white America and right wingers lambasted her for the comment; quickly refuting her comments as a quote from someone who hates their country and is unpatriotic. I hate to stereotype but I believe most minorities understood what she meant. It’s not that we don’t love our country, it’s that when you grow up, burned under the harsh light of racism and blind hate, it’s difficult to fully embrace and be proud of a country that hates you. White nationalists protested under the guise of protecting their heritage and history; they did not want the statue representing the confederacy they are so proud of to come down. Yet, I bet if a black person dared to mention the horrors of slavery we would be told to, “Get over it.” It’s kind of hard to ‘get over it’ when your ancestral history includes being considered three-fifths of a human being. And it’s hard to be proud of your country when people are allowed to gather on a platform of hate. But this is our home. And we must defend our home. I urge you to fight this racism and bigotry at every turn. Do not turn a blind eye and declare that it is not your problem. This belongs to all of us. And the only way to combat hate is to confront it. That’s how you honor the flag.