Will Walker, Hamilton
When I see a man with a gun at a civil protest, I cannot be sure whether he wishes to inflict violence upon the people there, or is safeguarding against it.
I grew up believing that America was one of the few places in the world where a person could feel safe voicing an unpopular opinion. Our schools taught my generation that the man standing on his street corner with a sign in his hand would not have to fear the baton or the bullet; that he would not be persecuted for his mark on the ballot.
The Italian Camicie Nere – better known to us as Mussolini’s Blackshirts – had one favorited response to the outcry caused by their brutal terrorism, a hundred years ago. They said only, “Me ne Frego.” “I don’t give a damn.” They knew full well that their violence was despicable and barbarous, but they had stopped caring long ago. The only principle they abided by was that all obstacles to the glory of their nation had to be removed without hesitation or mercy. Any perceived threat to that ultimate goal- socialists, feminists, and opposition journalists- were their existential enemy. They occupied no space in the fascist’s consciousness. They were crushed like ants under their boots.
In the end, the Blackshirts’ hate was fueled by the deception that their way of life was on the brink of death, and that their only chance to save it was to purge their society of the groups and ideologies that they believed were its cancers. Now I hear that same melody being played in America today. We are afraid of the man on the street corner, and he is afraid of us.
It is worth asking yourself what your initial reactions to these statements are. Carefully judge your emotions and attempt to examine any assumptions you may have made about me and my politics. Do you suspect me to be a member of the opposition? If you do, why? If your reflex to the possibility of that is hostility, you need to take yourself aside and ask serious questions about the true reason for that.
When I see a hand resting on a sidearm at our protests today, all I know is that the man it belongs to believes he must soon make a choice between his way of life and the lives of others. In the end, he is the most fearful of us all.