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Writings from the Porch 

August 13, 2017

Thoughts on Confrontation in the Age of Trump

Yes, people in the United States have the right to say “Heil Trump” and spew the tenets of white supremacy. And they even have the right to do so in militaristic gear that is clearly intending to provoke violence. There is no way to rally around the ideology of Nazism and the KKK without being provocative. And take note of the term being used: white nationalists. Nationalists. That is key. White supremacy is being directly linked with the definition of being American, boldly and outright. Also important is to know that the definition of fascism is heavily dependent on nationalism. White nationalists.

And, as others have said, our president has indeed been giving the green light for such expression from the beginning of his campaign. There are hours of video of him speaking the words. Not even subtly (he can’t be subtle.) And now he is careful not to specifically condemn the “white nationalists” because he understands that they are and have always been a vital brick in his foundation of power. To borrow from a John Wayne movie, he’s dancing with them that brung him. In his view, at worst, the white nationalists are simply part of the fabric of our country — they are to be treated as peers and embraced. And sadly, he is partially right. They are part of the fabric of this country. That they exist must be accepted, but they do not–and should not — be welcomed as peers. They must be confronted.

Confronted. Confrontation. Many recoil at such an idea every day of their lives, mostly as it applies to confronting their own demons. But until they do, those demons just keep on running the show. And it’s the same with society. So the demons must be confronted.

But confrontation does not mean allowing the foe to choose the battlefield or the weapons. Indeed, that is the way to allow the foe to prevail. Do not allow the demon to dictate the confrontation.

A natural reflex for many of us, myself included, is to meet violence with violence. But this is not the answer. The initial reflex can, and must, be denied. To do otherwise will only escalate the violence, and in this war violence hands victory to the enemy. Charlottesville is but one of millions of examples of this truth.

Let the response come from the loving core, not the superficial reflex. Do not confuse superior physical force with courage. Absorb the violence — don’t feed it. Pause. Reflect. Listen to those who have come and gone before us, those who have demonstrated how to confront hatred without allowing the toxicity of the foe to win the day. Study and follow the paths that have brought us far in this struggle that stretches across generations, and will stretch yet into the future. Let the lives of those who have died fighting this very brand of hatred not be in vain. Bring the fight to the enemy, but lead with love.

 Lead with love. And confront.

Will D. Campbell and Ralph Abernathy, April 4, 1968