When you have a crowd of 40,000 people protesting against a rally of a few dozen people, you cannot claim that the few dozen people are the oppressors.
The pictures above show the Free Speech Rally that took place on Boston Common on Saturday (right) and the crowd of people who decided to protest against it (left).
Pretty much everyone agrees that slavery and Jim Crow laws were bad, but our society has reached a point where things have gone too far in the opposite direction. The people who claim to be against hate, discrimination, and prejudice are actually more hateful, discriminatory, and prejudiced than the people they are protesting against.
Fairness and consistency
Throughout history, there has been a wide variety of leaders, generals, politicians, and other public figures. All of these historical figures have pros and cons. People have a wide variety of opinions about which pros and cons are most important, and which historical figures are worthy of admiration. The same can be said of the various states, countries, and civilizations that have existed over the course of history, some for thousands of years and others only for a few years. Different nations have had different laws and cultures, with good aspects and bad. None is perfect.
Yet today’s society has decided that the Confederate States of America, as well as all historical figures associated with it, deserves to be singled out for condemnation.
This is discriminatory and unjust.
Almost everyone would agree that slavery was a negative thing about the Confederate States of America. But that is not the only thing that the Confederacy stood for. Many people justifiably sympathize with the principle of states’ rights that the Confederacy was founded upon and admire the Confederate soldiers who fought honorably and bravely for their cause, despite the North’s superior numbers and infrastructure.
It’s also important to mention that the Confederate States of America was far from the only nation to have slavery. A wide range of civilizations, including Sumeria, Egypt, China, Greece, and Rome, have practiced slavery. Yet hardly anyone criticizes them or demands that their monuments be torn down.
By taking down Confederate statues and monuments, the government is deciding that the opinions of those who hate the Confederate States of America should be privileged above the opinions of those who feel differently. People who particularly dislike Confederate leaders and their statues get to see their opinions enacted into law through the removal of those statues, while people who particularly dislike other historical figures do not.
The same can be said of recent decisions to stop flying the Confederate flag publicly, to remove it from state flags, and even for flag companies to stop producing it.
If you are going to remove statues or flags because people do not like them or the values they stand for, you need to be consistent and remove all flags and all statues of all countries and all historical figures. If this seems ridiculous, that’s because it is. Instead, the tolerant and non-discriminatory thing to do is to allow a wide range of statues and flags to be displayed, so that everyone can find something that reflects their values.
Charlottesville and why Trump is right
This brings me to the horrible events that took place in Charlottesville, VA and President Trump’s response to them. Here are some excerpts from Trump’s comments:
You had a group on one side that was bad. And you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group – you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent….
Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there, because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue Robert E. Lee… So this week, it’s Robert E. Lee, I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after. You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?
I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it… You also had people that were very fine people on both sides.
In my opinion, Trump is 100% right.
Yes, some of the people at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville were white supremacists. Many, however, were just opposed to the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, which does not makes someone a white supremacist. There is absolutely no reason to think that these were not fine people.
Yes, one of the counterprotesters, Heather Heyer, tragically lost her life, and the individual who killed her should be held fully accountable. But the counterprotesters, who outnumbered the rallygoers they were protesting against, behaved violently as well. News reports state that both sides “threw punches, screamed, set off smoke bombs, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays.” Images show white nationalists bleeding after being hit in the head and counterprotesters throwing newspaper boxes.
But even if the rallygoers were all white supremacists, and even if the counterprotesters were peaceful, they would still deserve a share of the blame. Everyone has the right to express their views, but choosing to protest against another group’s rally goes beyond merely expressing one’s views. To protest against another group’s rally is to attack that group and to deliberately start a conflict. It is wrong to state that those who hold unpopular views are responsible for violence simply by virtue of existing, while holding blameless the counterprotesters who went out of their way to start the conflict.
Bullies in Boston
Saturday’s demonstrations in Boston are widely regarded as a victory for love, peace, and tolerance, but nothing could be further from the truth
First of all, before the Free Speech Rally even took place, Mayor Marty Walsh demonstrated deeply intolerant, anti-First-Amendment views, vowing to do anything possible “so that the march or this demonstration does not happen in our city.” He added, “Boston does not welcome you here, Boston does not want you here, Boston rejects your message.”
As mentioned above, the counterprotesters outnumbered the rallygoers by a ridiculous amount. The attendance disparity was almost certainly exacerbated by the fact that it was next to impossible for anyone who wished to attend the actual rally to get through. Police had barricaded off a large area of open land around the bandstand where the speeches were taking place. I made my way around the entire perimeter, through the mobs of counterprotesters, looking for a way to get in, but couldn’t find one. It wouldn’t surprise me if others found themselves in the same situation, assuming they would have been willing to risk the wrath of the tens of thousands of counterprotesters, which many people understandably wouldn’t be.
Disturbingly, according to the Boston Globe, Police Chief William Evans said that he decided on this arrangement at least partially for that very reason: to keep the rally’s speakers from being heard. “That’s a good thing because their message isn’t what we want to hear,” he said. For someone speaking in his official capacity to so openly take a side on a political/philosophical issue is a total betrayal of the police’s obligation to remain neutral. This has got to be grounds for a lawsuit of some sort.
As for the counterprotesters themselves, their behavior included burning a Confederate flag, throwing bottles, urine, rocks, and traffic cones at cops, chanting “shame! shame!” and “off our streets Nazi scum,” booing the speakers, pushing and knocking over a man on a bicycle, grabbing a flag out of an elderly woman’s hand and knocking her over, and chasing, surrounding, shouting at, swearing at, shoving, and throwing things at rallygoers. Someone shouted “impeach the Cheeto!” (a reference to Trump; I thought judging people by their skin color was exactly what these protesters were supposed to be against). According to the Boston Globe, someone else shouted, “You’re a scourge on humanity, Nazi scum!” As a few rallygoers were let through the barriers and approached the bandstand, someone yelled “Smile for your exit interview on Monday” (as if it would be even remotely acceptable for a company to fire an employee for expressing unpopular views unrelated to the job). The crowd cheered when the rally ended and blocked the cars that were carrying the rallygoers away, yelling “make them walk” and “go home Nazis.” Some examples of signs that I saw included:
- “Quit your bullshit”
- “Fuck the Confederacy”
- “I prefer the other white walkers”
- “Alt-right fuckboys are the real snowflakes”
- “Jewish woman with childbearing hips. We will replace you.”
- “White supremacists are cowards”
- “Nobody likes a sore loser” (with images of the Nazi and Confederate flags)
- “Fascism is not to be debated, it is to be crushed”
In addition to being rude and intolerant, several of these signs crossed the line from advocating for equality to criticizing white people simply for being white.
What makes all of this even more ridiculous is that the Free Speech rally did not have anything to do with white nationalism or white supremacy. It was simply what its name suggests: a rally in favor of free speech. All of these people were protesting something that wasn’t even taking place. It’s almost like going to a Red Sox vs. Orioles game and rooting against the Yankees.
All in all, the behavior of the counterprotesters is a perfect example of bullying. To denounce, curse, tear down the statues of, and burn the flag of a nation that only existed for four years before being defeated by a more populous and industrialized foe is the ultimate in mindless conformity and authoritarianism. The counterprotesters in Charlottesville and Boston are not underdogs standing up to “the man;” they are the man stomping on the underdog. They were not standing up against anything, they were aggressing against those who have different opinions. They were not defending the rights of minorities, they were the majority attempting to intimidate, shame, and silence those with minority views. Too many people in today’s society who claim to be advocating against racism, intolerance, hate, and bigotry are doing the exact opposite.