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A meditation on violent resistance by Garrett Smith EDITOR-AT-LARGE AUSTERE

We’ve all seen the clips, felt the anger, and scrambled for an outlet. Whether you turn to angry keystrokes or vocal in-the-streets protests, there’s one thing looming in the back of your mind:

“I really, really want to punch one of these people.”

And by people, you know we mean the “alt-right”, the edge lords, the hate-spewing, liberal-decrying, false-news beholden neo-Nazis that we’ve all been beaten over the head by. And we wish we could beat them over the head – maybe, we think, that would either return their sense of rationality and human decency… or would knock them out and silence them.

The question arises, though – is this morally acceptable?

Of course, the conventional resistance-wisdom handed down to us from the originals themselves – Gandhi, MLK Jr., and so on – would say no, violence is stooping to their level, violence gives them cause for opposition, violence begets violence. And yet, we find ourselves wondering – where’s the line in the sand? In these times, certain powers-that-be across the globe have emboldened a highly vocal, highly prejudiced group to espouse their worldview ad museum. Within that view is the perfectly obstinate, self-justifying clause of “the media has eschewed truth, liberals have taken over, and everyone is trying to keep us from free speech or from success” As such, it seems, at first glance, nigh-impossible to breach their defenses with peaceful means. They are resolute, and any argument against their beliefs is filtered through a logic causeway that falls into categories like the above: either it’s fake news, liberal exaggeration, or anti-white conspiracy. Anything and everything will drop through into one of these categories, no matter the stretch of imagination or the cognitive dissonance required.

Yet, the doctrine is still dangerous. It has implications that put many lives in jeopardy of abject poverty, loss of freedom, or even loss of life. No matter how bull-headed such people are, this is a reality which the reasoned and empathic among us find ourselves desperate to drown before its flames can conflagrate the nation and beyond.

This leaves us in a sort of moral stasis: do we drudge on with peace and reason, hoping against hope that we will win the day as our forebears have, taking blow for blow without throwing any ourselves, hoping that non-violence will prove us “right”? Or, in the name of preventative measure, do we fight back with any means necessary to quell an uprising of what may very well be the American Reich? In other words – will peaceful waiting be our damnation? After all, silence and passivity were the downfall of many nations who were swept by tides of fascism and tyranny. Innumerable lives have been lost because people failed to see the imperative of halting a dangerous movement before it grew too strong to combat with words and sanctions. The plotting is going on as we speak, and so far, nothing has seemed to stem the tide of hate, save gracious moments of ineptitude – which, unfortunately, are swept under the rug by a cultishly beholden following.

On the other hand – do we lose clout to our arguments if we fight on the same battlegrounds as our enemy? It seems the minute we fight back, cast stones, put up walls, we will be met with a “told you so” moment from our enemy – a nail in the coffin that they hope to build for us via ambiguity. They seem to beg for us to respond in kind, because that bolsters their negative argument – that our side is no more right than theirs, because we “oppress”, berate, and belittle them as much as we claim they do minorities and marginalized communities. They’re waiting for the moment to hold up a mirror and say “we’re not so different, you and I – so why does your side hold any more reason than ours?” And that would be, it seems, the end to our fight. It would be the final brick in the wall between two sides.

“Any argument against their beliefs is filtered through a logic causeway that falls into categories like the above: either it’s fake news, liberal exaggeration, or anti-white conspiracy.”

Dialogue seems impossible; violence seems impractical. Where do we go?

Unlike our opposition, we have one cognitive weapon which we can and should use to our advantage – non-dichotomous thinking. In other words, we are not beholden to the “splitting” phenomena that dictate their black-and-white worldview. We can be both “violent” and “peaceful” in our resistance. We can be creative, conniving, and complex.

Like any good battle strategy, first, we must utilize reconnaissance and subterfuge. Relate to them even when we cannot find any visible route to connection. Build trenches of empathy even as they blitz us with apathy. Force them to humanize the very people they would rob of dignity and freedom – we’ve seen, in guerilla-like fashion, many turncoats born of someone who had simply never met a Muslim; someone who had never know the hardship of their immigrant neighbor; someone who had never known what it is to suffer the abuse a woman does. Like double-agents, we must “send in” those marginalized groups, and we already are: Meet a Muslim is already an ongoing program that allows for people – especially in small, rural, largely homogeneously white Christian towns – to actually get to know some of the followers of Islam.

We’ve got to use diplomacy, too. Once you’ve learned the opposition’s ways, their feelings, their desires, you must parlay with them. Compromise is the name of the game. Not a compromise of values, per se, but a compromise in implementation. A dialogue, if you will.

But here’s where we might win some back, or lose some – like any conflict, there comes a point when diplomacy and reconnaissance have done all they can, and when the opposition threatens real, human lives – we cannot stand idly by. We cannot home for decency to win out when we have exhausted all humanitarian efforts. Yes, we must continue to focus inwards, to protect our communities, to support the suffering, to doctor those among us. But if our means of protest are rendered moot – our government taken over, democracy vanquished in all but name, our rights and freedoms mere pacifying illusions handed down by a ruling regime – what option have we left? Will you continue to practice peace, even when people are dying at the hands of violence all around you? We are no authority by any means, but in this meditation, we have to propose: if our preemptive efforts fail, we cannot let abstract moral quandaries guide our decisions. We will have to face reality, and decide that, as many have had to before us, that violent resistance, that forceful reclamation of our governing bodies, that armed suppression of tyranny, are the only answers left.

It’s rocky territory, to be sure, and it will take great minds and leaders to be sure to steer us away from dehumanizing in turn. It will be touch-and-go, and many will be demoralized via the opposition making claims of hypocrisy – but if we fight for each other, if we use violence to prevent irreparable damage to humanity, then we will have no reason to lose resolve.

When they come knocking on our doors, demanding stars and barcodes, demanding deportation and subjugation – will we find ourselves pushing daisies, or punching Nazis?


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This story was printed in the DAWN issue.
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