Friday, August 25, 2017

Big Bad Wolf

"We Need To Start Befriending Neo Nazis." It's a simple enough idea. Talking with the Alt-Right is the best way to deal with the Alt-Right. One of the things that drives people to fringe and/or radical movements, of any political ideology, is the idea that they are marginalized and forgotten. In effect, they are cut off from connection with the greater society, and from the many and varied benefits that such connection brings.

And it's worth pointing out that this is known and understood about more than out-there political groups. A lack of social connection is one of the major risk factors for drug abuse; which makes it all the more heartbreaking when the people closest to the addict use their connections, their relationships, as hostages to dictate a change in the addicts behavior.

But in any event, a cam across a discussion of the Forward article, and I noticed very quickly the current of fear that ran through the comments.

I don't know where I first found this picture, but it resonated with me from the outset.
While it's easy, and common, to make the people we don't like out to be monsters, that caricature of them makes them seem more dangerous and more fearsome than they would if we viewed them as people.

While what happened in Charlottesville was unmistakably a tragedy, it was one person acting violently. But from that, there is this sense, and you see it in a number of places, that violence is somehow endemic to even being in the vicinity of an Alt-Right protest, or a counter-protest.
Coliseum College Prep Academy teacher Chela Delgado: In Charlottesville, a number of folks were trying to protest nonviolently, and then violence occurred. So I think that if you're choosing to not participate, that also makes a lot of sense.
In San Francisco, Local Teens Consider Protesting Right-Wing Marches
Back in 2003, an 86 year old man drove through a crowd of people in Santa Monica, likely due to age and confusion. 10 people were killed and nearly more than 60 injured. And while the numbers between these two incidents are more skewed, the fact of the matter is that traffic accidents kill more people than violence does in the United States.

Yet, being a counter-protester at an Alt-Right rally, or simply sitting down to a conversation with a "neo-Nazi" who seems receptive to conversation, can be seen as unacceptably dangerous.

In the end, the Alt-Right isn't a group of homicidal maniacs. If they were, they could be doing a lot of damage already. After all, if your primary targets are non-white people, it's not like they're all that difficult to find. Sure, they're fairly thin on the ground in some parts of the country, but a decent road trip or train ride can put you into an area where they're common enough to go after.

But the death of Heather Heyer has sown fear, and that fear makes the whole issue seem more dangerous than it is. This is not to say that there isn't any potential for violence. After all, there are people on both sides spoiling for a fight; or looking to goad the other side into starting one. But the Alt-Right situation isn't as dangerous as people can make it out to be. After all, these are people who realize that they aren't a majority of the population, or even a sizable minority. While they may want to return to a time when they could use violence to get their way, and not have to worry about the consequences thereof, that time is not now. If they turned to violence at the drop of a hat, they'd quickly find themselves hunted across the country.

Fear is an adaptive response. It helps keep one alive in uncertain and dangerous situations. But it can also run away with people. There is something to be said for being a good judge of character, and understanding when a situation may go sideways. But there's also something to be said for understanding the genuine risks that one faces.

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