This has perhaps a tenuous link to grief and grieving – but as it’s my blog and my distress, I’m posting this here to remind myself: villains don’t wear easily identifiable costumes.
One of the touchpoints for the hateful protests in Virginia this past week was the pending removal of a statue of Robert E Lee – a Confederate war general. That a hero of the Confederacy would become a reason to express intolerance of others, racial hatred and frustration with the perception that multiculturalism is being shoved down the throats of people who resent it speaks volumes. Have we learned so little as a country? As a world?
Yet, I call them villains. They may feel marginalised, as if multiculturalism is being shoved down their throats, afraid of Islam, aggrieved that their tax dollars go to educate the children of illegal immigrants, nervous that waves of new migrants don’t want to assimilate but instead to bring their culture with them and thus dilute the familiar — but adopting the postures and acts of genocidal regimes, terrorists and thugs is evil.
A friend suggested that they should wear the Nazi uniform and own it. But it’s easy to fight against a black hat – to point the finger at the mustache-twirling villain and stand up to them. It’s a lot harder to speak up at a barbeque. Or to the guy serving you the hot dog. Or your student. Or your boss. Or the next guy you start dating.
What these people are wearing is so much more appropriate. They are not apart, recognisable by uniform and easily fought or avoided. They are our neighbours, our coffee shop servers, our civil servants, our police, our children’s teachers. Their hatred is often subtle. A joke here. A child ignored in class there. Motorists of colour stopped on thin provocation. Women in headscarves ignored or jostled. Gay people ridiculed. A white person served before a brown one.
The very ordinariness of these people, their clean shaven faces, nice clothing and fashionably cut hair carrying tiki torches normally used at communal barbeques and family picnics remind those of us with feeling and reason to speak up. To vote. To protect the vulnerable. And to ensure there is appropriate education, information and discussion so that fears can be brought into the light and dealt with – rather than shut away as something that can never be discussed. I am aware that there are those for whom logic and reason will never replace twisted ideologies. What we say and do about that speaks volumes about the type of society we all want.