Based on the media’s reporting this week, you would think last week’s ‘Unite the Right’ rally was one of the worst tragedies to happen in America since 9/11. Claims have ranged from it being a hate crime, to quite possibly being the event that will push us into a new civil war. Now, I hope I don’t need to point out the idiocy of starting another civil war over an argument relating to the last civil war. What is safe to assume though, is that things will get a little worse before they get a little better.
And that is because we’ve been so busy pointing fingers at who’s to blame for the violence, we haven’t stepped back and examined how this came to be in the first place. While everyone is trying to pick favorites between the brown shirts and the red’s, the true culprit lies unnoticed in the chaos: the government.
Antifa, in its modern-day version, came to fruition as the result of a group thinking they’re losing hold of their country to an ideology they vehemently oppose. The alt-right feel very much the same, having claimed Obama ‘sold out’ America’s interests throughout his eight years in office. Rather than argue with one another over the fruitless topic of which side’s claims are more credible, let’s look why these groups feel this way at all.
A popular critique of nationalism is that ‘it gets you to needlessly hate people you’ve never met.’ Likewise, when you politicize every little thing under the sun, up to and including which signs can go on private institution’s bathrooms, you get a similar result. Politicizing things, especially centralizing authority at the federal level, provides the same negative incentives as the critique of nationalism I just mentioned. It’s nearly impossible to think that an issue in suburban California will have the same solution as it would in rural Kansas, or at the very least that the individuals want the same things.
Yet, that’s exactly what the government assumes when it passes blanket laws and regulation. And the more things it does this for, the more people feel the underlying culprit for their problems are ‘those guys over there.’ It’s very easy to point the blame at an opposing group in a far-away land when the media is fueling the fire of polarization through over-sensationalized stories 24/7. To make matters worse, as political authority becomes centralized, people have less and less say in the decisions affecting their lives. And we know from history that one of the best ways to push a group into embracing more radical means is to take away their voice.
I hate to say I told you so, but I warned of the rise in these more radical groups and the potential reactions they would bring back when protests started popping up after Trump’s nomination. Rather than meet these people with equally-ignorant protests, the best way to reject bad ideas is to let them show off their ideas in public. If they aren’t allowed to speak, however, you create another problem entirely, as we’re seeing now.
The solution is quite different then what you’re being told, though. Denouncing fascism or racism on Facebook should be self-evident as to its ineffectiveness. Ironically though, the reason you’re being told it’s complicated by the media is precisely because of how simple it actually is.
Imagine if things weren’t politicized nearly as much as they are today. Imagine if the ‘melting pot’ of the United States was actually allowed to be a melting pot of differing opinions, cultures, values, and even methods of governance. Would you really care or worry about what people thousands of miles away wanted if they had no say in your life? If the federal level of the government didn’t attempt to dictate or regulate every decision we make from coast-to-coast, chances are political tensions wouldn’t be where they’re at today. Do you honestly think the rallies against Trump have more to do with his ‘being a racist,’ than they are a product of the unsettling realization surrounding the amount of authority he has come to hold? Likewise, would these Unite the Right rallies be going on if white nationalists weren’t afraid of the political results of becoming the voting minority in America? If you’ve been paying attention, the answer to all this should be apparent, which leads us to the obvious solution.
Political decentralization is the one effective way to reverse these trends in our country. The only question is whether or not it is possible to achieve. It’s quite obvious the federal government doesn’t like relinquishing control of authority, even at the detriment of its own citizens. For that reason, some argue that the path is irreversible and secession is our only option at this point. While I’m not opposed to the idea, I don’t agree it’s our last vestige of hope. We can always compromise if the public can be informed and unified behind a common cause.
The logical starting point to decentralization would be the sale of all these monuments and the subsequent land they’re on. People may do what they want, and like Jason Stapleton said, what business is it of ours if someone wants a statue of Stalin, Robert E. Lee, or any other person for that matter put up in their backyard? If the government isn’t willing to give up a bit of real estate with a park view in order to subvert another civil war, then we should re-evaluate which group is actually more of a threat to our well-being.
In addition to advocating for political decentralization, the best thing the we can do is to give these people as little attention as possible. Let’s de-escalate the radicalization by embracing more sensible means. By plastering this event all over the media this week, we’ve given both sides more publicity than they could have hoped for, only leading more impressionable people to fall prey to their twisted messages. While it may sound cliché, the best thing to do is recognize just how small of a minority these groups are and to pay them no mind. Prominent people on both sides of the political aisle agree on this, such as Noam Chomsky and Ben Shapiro holding similar views.
The enemy of my enemy is not always my friend, but in this case, we can find common ground with the majority of Americans by uniting behind the ability to allow each other to do as they wish. Besides requiring the education of the public regarding the benefits of this non-violent strategy, accomplishing these goals will necessitate putting down the masks and tiki torches, and rejecting these radical means as a practical end, not sympathizing with either one of them.
Featured image: AJC.com
Thomas J. Eckert
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