how can you run when you know

by Megg on August 13, 2017

Yesterday I watched live as a 20-year-old white supremacist accelerated his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many others.

We live in a strange time. I say this not because there was literally an angry torch-wielding mob of white men roving through Charlottesville chanting “white lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us.” I say this not because we have a man leading our government that can’t even condemn such things. I say this not because people standing up against such hatred lost their lives yesterday. These things are infuriating, but they are not shocking. They are not unique to our times. Historically speaking, they are much more American than not.

But now we live in a time in which we can watch this unfold, in real-time, on the internet. We can spew off commentary in the comment section, and see all the other opinions and hate-mongering as we scroll on through. We can watch our president tweet about how “sad!” it is that people died.

I do not quite know a word for this deep-set anger, that boils up from my center, mixed with a profound and sweeping sadness; this wound that never heals, for it is ripped open again and again. As I said before, I cannot be shocked by all this. But that doesn’t make it easier.

When I was in Standing Rock, and there were prayer marches and peaceful protests nearly every day, the lawmakers in North Dakota were trying to pass a law to legalize running over protesters in the streets. Though it did not ultimately pass, it got quite close, and North Dakota is not the only state that has been trying to pass such legislation. This was happening after a friend of mine got her foot run over by an angry construction worker (a white man) in a pickup truck who drove through a prayer march and threatened water protectors with a gun. He never faced any consequences for this, yet my friend, a Native woman, faced felony charges for being there.

I can’t stop thinking about how it is not only terrifying how emboldened these neo-Nazis are to chant “blood and soil,” aka “blut und boden”: a German idea that was swept up by the Nazis to proclaim German land for those of German heritage, but also the terrific irony that such claim could only be applied to American land by those who occupied it before Europeans came in and stole it all, those whose blood was spilt by those very settlers.

I am frustrated beyond belief. Aside from a system that squashes dissent and enables these domestic terrorists, allowing them to maim and kill with few legal repercussions, we face the self-satisfied white liberal, who condemns action and all but blames victims for standing up. When non-violent resistance is met with police brutality and unchecked civilian violence, who is there for those putting their lives on the line for justice?

When I see a car plummet into peaceful bodies in a crowded alley I see how easily it could be me or a loved one flying up into the air. I truthfully cannot understand how so many are able to consider that perhaps those people should not have been there, standing up against men with assault rifles and swastika arm bands. These are the people who will cheer when Indiana Jones fights Nazis, or when Luke Skywalker blows up the Death Star, but fail to support real-life heroes that struggle against injustice and hatred in the streets of our cities and towns every day. These are people that are more concerned with the occasional broken window than the actual blood that is spilled every day by people of color and their accomplices in the fight against white supremacy.

In the past I’ve heard folks wonder why Germans didn’t take a stand against the Nazis before it got out of hand. Of course there were plenty who did stand up, who risked their lives and often died to save others. But I wonder, as fascism so clearly rises in this country, what Americans who oppose it will do. Will they “angry react” on Facebook posts? Will they “tsk tsk” at protesters who organize to protect themselves and others, calling them too extreme and advising them to “be patient”?

We live in a strange time. And I’m so tired.

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