My mind seizes upon finding solutions, to even the thorniest of problems. In that spirit, I’ve been trying to envision a path toward unification as our country descends into a maelstrom of divisiveness.
It is a tall order, but as is true of essentially all the most vexing problems of modernity, we technically possess everything we need to achieve positive outcomes. For America specifically, our Constitution clearly states the deep purpose of its composition: “We the People, in order to form a more perfect Union.” This opening phrase provides the baseline qualification of true patriotism: a commitment to our Union. As the forebear of the Constitution, the Articles of Confederation make repeated mention of, and prioritize, the crucial factor of retaining “friendship” among the people. Hence, the United States. Both of which point out the fundamental error and betrayal perpetrated every time one American seizes upon the vilification and denigration of another: undermining the necessary foundation of unity in a fatally flawed attempt to strengthen the Union.
This behavior is easy to point out among those ascribing to new-Nazi rhetoric and supremacist ideology. It is important to reject such efforts to segregate, as both unethical and seditious. But how to do so, without affirming and perpetuating the core problems of disunity and reactionary anger?
I like the possibilities of humor and satire. For one thing, my intuition and close reading both suggest that a large part of the alt-right motivation stems from a sense of joking irreverence – to push incendiary language as far as possible and then ridicule the (oftentimes predictably emotional) response. My thought, regarding those white people who are not truly and fully radicalized believers in supremacism but enjoy it as an outlet for clever though vulgar riposte, can’t they channel that cleverness to more original ends? Mocking and attacking people because of their color, gender, politics, etc. might offer some modicum of satisfaction, but how impressive is it really, with such soft and obvious targets?
Unless you personally are a billionaire in the top percentile, it’s difficult to actually improve your situation on the level of the personal, familial, or immediate community UNLESS and UNTIL targeting those forces actually stoking the demise of life quality. In other words, refuse to be a pawn for the multinational, big-pollution conglomerates that not only work to rob all regular people of control, but absolutely benefit the most when we are divided enough to fuss at one another as the enemy while our common interests and rights go ignored and are increasingly, merrily chipped away at for the sake of plutocratic profit. While we push back and forth at each other, we remain distracted from the possibilities of self-governance and true independence that can only come through “more perfect Union.”
One thought, inspired by the German townspeople who dress up like clowns in order to humorously defuse the incendiary intentions of NeoNazi marchers, but more pertinent to American culture, would be to underscore some of the basics. One basic in our culture: teaching children to stand up to bullies. Maybe the alt-right just needs to brush up on childhood lessons and truths? Akin to the spirit of afterschool specials and public service announcements, to maybe dress up 80s/90s preteen style and act out the trope of the bully – intimidation, rejection, and possible reintegration into the group where formerly misused strengths are transformed into helpful assets. Helpful to what? Therein lay the benefit, to reorient attention to the greater matters at hand. Like, now that we are no longer pushing and shoving at one another, we can stop the school administration from pouring their raw sewage into the drinking water. Metaphorically, and not.
Another thought, informed by the fact that an alt-right figurehead is convening a “marketplace of ideas” on one side of the state then coming to our university community to rally, is to use signage that pokes a bit of fun at both the notion of a marketplace and playfully owns up to the higher-ed reputation for lecturing. Basically, the signs say “Free Idea: Liberty and Justice for All”, “Free Idea: Form a more perfect Union”, “Free Idea: Self-evident truth – all are created Equal”… and so forth, utilizing the language of the founding documents that I obviously think are critical elements necessary to the functionality of our democracy. Words I am in no way prepared to cede claim over, in support of the righteous.