Which side are you on?

A few days ago, neo-Nazis and other white nationalists descended on Charlottesville, Va., to rally for hate. They came carrying torches and assault rifles. One of them used an automobile as a weapon, and now 34 peaceful protestors have been injured and one woman is dead. Amidst the confusion of that day, a helicopter crash also claimed the lives of two police officers.

I have prepared a statement about this weekend’s incident, which itself was just one instance of a type of terrorism that has been exponentially increasing over the last year or two. Some of these phrases and thoughts I have borrowed from other people’s writing; I hope that I do them honor by including spin offs of their words here, and I thank them for their eloquent bravery.

This is not a partisan issue. This is not a political issue. To demonstrate that, here are some quotes about the terrorism in Charlottesville.

“It’s not hard to spot the wrong side here. They’re the ones with the torches and the swastikas.” - Kamala Harris.

“White supremacists and neo-Nazis are, by definition, opposed to American patriotism and the ideals that define us as a people and make our nation special. As we mourn the tragedy that has occurred in Charlottesville, American patriots of all colors and creeds must come together to defy those who raise the flag of hatred and bigotry.” - Sen. John McCain.

“Racism is evil. And those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.” President Donald Trump.

We must ask ourselves an urgent question: which side are we on? Are we on the side that makes excuses for and sanitizes these acts? Are we on the side that pardons the actors behind them by calling them misunderstood Americans, the “alt” right, misguided, upset, fringe and whatever other name might diminish the outright terrorism these people are perpetrating?

Or are we on the side that confronts anti-Black, anti-Native, anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim racism, bigotry, and xenophobia —and condemns the white supremacist domestic terrorists who marched on Charlottesville to shed some blood? You don’t get to be both a Nazi and a proud American. We literally had a war about this. The whole world was involved.

My fellow white Americans, what happened in Charlottesville happened because of us, and we need to understand and take responsibility for that. It’s natural to feel that “I just want life to go back to normal,” but we can’t, we mustn’t do that. Our “normal” was what led to this, and it is our privilege that allows us to feel safe. This reality that seems so new and disturbing to us is the reality that people of color have been living with forever. There is no normal, there never was. We have failed in our duty to be accountable, and we need to face our history and our complicity in this system.

This is not about “free speech.” It never was. There is no “free speech” if anyone brandishes firearms to intimidate those they despise. You can’t argue with the armed. The fascists told us their intentions clearly on Saturday. This, to them, is about “blood and soil.” They are serious. So am I. This week, it was Charlottesville. Next week, it could be any other town. We all must answer this question, “How will I confront this threat?”

I urge you to denounce hate groups and hate crimes and to spread the truth about hate’s threat to a pluralistic society. An informed and unified community is the best defense against hate.

You can spread understanding about the importance of dismantling systemic and overt racism in our society in private and public ways; through one-on-one conversations, by talking to your children about racism early and often, in church bulletins, door-to-door fliers, websites, local bulletin boards, letters to the editor, social media and print advertisements. Hate shrivels under strong light. Beneath their neo-Nazi exteriors, hate purveyors are cowards, surprisingly subject to public pressure and ostracism.

People are dying and I’m not standing for it anymore. Racism must named, confronted and abolished. White supremacy must be denounced. Fascists must be stopped.

These words from a Woody Guthrie song have been replaying in my head, “All you fascists are bound to lose.” But, they aren’t bound to lose. Maybe they can win. WE have to hold them accountable and MAKE them lose.

Catriona Reynolds is a Homer City Council member. She made this statement at the end of the Aug. 14 Homer City Council meeting. Her comments do not necessarily express the opinions or policy of the council as a whole or the city.

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