Every time I launch into a screed assailing violent, right-wing rhetoric, or warning of our nation’s precipitous slide towards fascism, I do so with the full understanding that some will judge me melodramatic, hyperbolic… or even paranoid. So why do I do it?
Dave Neiwert answers that question well today on his blog Orcinus, where he routinely chronicles the eliminationist rhetoric and actions of the far right:
Last weekend, Jacob Robida acted out this dynamic in real life: He walked into a tavern in New Bedford, Mass., and, after inquiring whether it was a gay bar — and being informed that it was — began a murderous rampage with a hatchet and a handgun, leaving three bar patrons injured, one of them in critical condition. When pulled over in Arkansas for a traffic violation, he shot and killed a Gassville police officer, launching a 20-mile pursuit that culminated when his car was disabled in nearby Norfolk. He then killed his female passenger, 33-year-old Jennifer Rena Bailey, and then was shot himself when he pointed his weapon at police.
Like all such rampages, this one did not occur in a vacuum. Robida had a Web site on which he posted a number of entries regarding his fascination with all things Nazi and murdering people in general. A search of his room turned up Nazi regalia and literature.
Jacob Robida’s rampage was all about reminding gay Americans that they are unsafe in our society — that their lives are forfeit because haters like Robida say so. People like this get their fuel from demagogues who claim that inflicting this kind of violence on such outcasts is their right. Not only is it their right, but it is the right thing to do.
Contrary to what some people may think, I do not awake each morning expecting today to be the day my government locks me away in a “detention center,” nor do I lay my head down at night expecting my sleep to be shattered by a right-wing-militia-fueled, 21st century American Kristallnacht.
However… I know my history, and I know that it is possible, if not imminently likely.
Our national reaction to the isolated attack of 9/11 was a preemptive war abroad, and a surrender of civil liberties at home… the quiet acceptance of a “1984”-like scenario in which a unitary executive claims extra-constitutional war powers in a War on Terror that even he admits is likely to extend for decades, if not indefinitely. At the same time, the increasingly violent rhetoric of the far-right continues its steady creep into mainstream politics.
So what would be our response to a major disaster, such as a nuclear, chemical or biological attack on an American city? While 9/11 was a nearly unparalleled American tragedy, there are reasonable scenarios with death tolls 100 times greater… or even higher. What freedoms would we surrender then? What freedoms would our government — or extremist vigilantes — attempt to take by force?
I write about these things now, not because I believe they will happen, but because I know they can happen. I write about these things now, because we need to at least imagine the worst — just like we should have imagined terrorists flying airplanes into skyscrapers — so that if these things do happen, we can at least anticipate the violent, anti-democratic reaction that will surely be generated. I write about these things now, while I am still free to write about these things, without fear of official or unofficial retaliation.
I write about these things because I know my history.