At what point do you become that which you are trying to eradicate?
This past weekend (9/13), I attended a show by the controversial band Death In June. Douglas Pearce (the sole continuous member) has been accused of being a racist, a Nazi, a fascist, and worse. The fact that he is openly gay, Jewish, and has played sold out shows in Israel is beside the point. I have listened to his music for years. I consider myself on the left end of the political spectrum. I’ve read any number of interviews and clarifications that Pearce has made about his views. I have a graduate degree in philosophy. I have participated in a number of civil rights demonstrations across the country. I can safely say that I find nothing fascist or hateful about him or his music. This is my conclusion. I stand by it.
Others only look at surface images of the band, and project their worst fears onto it. Those are their conclusions. I have listened to their arguments, and read their cases. I remain unconvinced.
The show I attended was protested by a group identifying themselves as anti-fascists. They have a right to do this. I respect this.
Rather than engaging us in dialogue, however, they became violent - openly harassing (an ethnically diverse!) group of people waiting politely in line for the show. There were fists involved. They tried to storm the venue. It was their assumption that we were all waiting to attend the next Nuremberg rally, and that we were Nazis who needed to be stopped.
The anti-fascists wound up physically harming a number of minority members of the audience. Additionally, they had vandalized the club where DIJ played the night before, and succeeded in threatening another venue to the point of cancelling a sold out show (which has since been relocated).
In 1920s-1930s Germany, the Nazi Party deployed a group known as the Sturmabteilung, or “brown shirts” to disrupt, threaten, intimidate, and physically harm political opponents. How, qualitatively, were the actions of the anti-fascists different from the tactics of the Sturmabteilung? Tactics aside, how is it anti-fascist to declare yourselves the gatekeepers of what people can, cannot, should, and should not listen to?
In their quest for a villain, they became the villains. Rather than seeking common ground (of which, I suspect, there may have actually been much between them and the audience), they demonized us.
Additionally, they denied our humanity in an even more fundamentally important way –they denied us the choice, the chance to make up our own minds about what we were seeing and hearing. They failed to recognize our own abilities – our own rights – to recognize good and evil.
Walt Kelly, the creator of the comic-strip POGO, wrote in 1953, regarding the McCarthy hearings:
“Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly…There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.”
In Jungian psychology, there is a term for this – “owning one’s shadow.” I hope that someday, the 8 protesters (not 20, as they claim) look into this, and find resolution.
Then, perhaps, we can all move forward and fight real evil - together.
Oh yeah. The show? Simply amazing.