Charlottesville and the Question of Violence

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Horseshoe Theory. This idiotic meme suggests that the political center is the strongest and those on the far right are the same as those on the far left. Because, you know, that’s how horseshoes work.  Of course, there is no such thing as a true center except that which is considered by the norms of an unsubstantiated Left and an unidentified Right. Horseshoe Theory is reactionary nonsense because the very idea of a moral political Center is reactionary nonsense, as the skirmishes in Charlottesville proved this last weekend.

In proudly declaring that they denounce violence “on both sides”, Centrists find themselves siding with genocidal war criminals and their greatest cheerleaders: Evil men like Bill Kristol, Donald Trump and even Richard Spencer, who blamed counter-protesters for violence when the very protest he was leading was itself the fulcrum of violence. But then moral Centrism must by necessity flatten out all other forms of political discourse, which is the only way that both genocide and self-defense can be seen as equal forms of violence.

Before I go on with further insults to Centrists and Moderates, it’s important to ask a grounding, yet often ignored question. 

What is violence?

First, it’s not viciousness or ferocity. It’s not a mood. It’s tangible and material and lasting and significant harm to an individual, community, or population. One doesn’t need to have a specific emotion—whether that’s anger or hate—to be violent, and having rage or hatred towards a person or group does not necessarily mean you’ve caused violence. Often, anger is a response to the harm and should be respected as such.

Violence to people with mental health problems is very different than violence to people without.

Lack of access is an act of violence against people with disabilities.

Pushing the police on homeless people is an act of violence to them. 

Since many people (including the mainstream media) consider property damage on its own to be violence, I ask: What does it harm CVS to lose a store, let alone Starbucks a window?

Contrast this to the damage that a painted swastika is on a synagogue, or the incendiary risk that comes along with just yelling “terrorists” at Muslims leaving a mosque. Or the violence that is materially affected on African American communities separated from economic justice, criminalized, and brutalized and murdered by the police.

What does it mean, as Ferguson reminded us but slavery taught us, that property has more rights than Black people in White Supremacist Capitalism? 

Fond remembrances of a system of Black chattel slavery is violence to Black people. And the speech and demonstration of fascists is violence to the oppressed.

Pop Quiz! Which is an act of violence?

a) A Klan gathering outside the house of an African American family.
b) An African American community gathering with guns at the family to protect its own from the Klan.
c) Both.

If you answered anything but a), maybe it’s time to reconsider your morality.

Let us be clear, stopping fascists is revolutionary. It is obviously not the only step to revolution, but it is one important aspect of it. Punching fascists is one tactic towards that among many. Punching Nazis is a useful revolutionary act, no matter what Samantha Bee thinks of it.

To those who argue that we merely escalate Nazis and the Klan when we push them: How do you escalate a Nazi or a Klanner? Do they become more genocidal?

These f*ckers have already got the ear of the president of the United States and his Attorney General. They are already marching in broad daylight and within cover of darkness. They are already openly espousing their views of the eradication of African Americans and non-European immigrants. They are already anti-Semitic and anti-Arab. They’re already armed and running in militias, ready to hunt down Mexicans and Muslims.

Centrists (and Liberals) who make this argument are suggesting that the enslaved should have never revolted, that the slavers would have eventually seen the errors of their ways because, deep down inside, they’re just misguided-but-good folks. It’s predicated on Whiteness. And Whiteness is violence.

In closing, you don’t have to punch Nazis. You don’t have to be near when others do punch Nazis. But you also don’t have to be a counter-revolutionary who condemns the self-defense of the oppressed.