Monday, August 14, 2017

Racism and the Alt Right: What's a conservative to do?

I was traveling all weekend and so missed most of the news on what happened in Charlottesville with the Alt-Right protest, the counter protests, and the violence.
Charlottesville, VA
My heart breaks for the victims, my state, and the state of our country, which has created the context for this kind of thing to happen.
In the midst of a tragedy like this, I think it is important to reflect on where we are, what has happened, and what we should do about it.
First, I think most of you who have heard me speak about candidates know that for about 10 years now I have said that the two things that disqualify a candidate from having the possibility of earning my support are their endorsement or participation in two things: 1. abortion 2. racism.
The reason these two things trump all others for me are because they show how someone values people. If you do not value people, even when it is easy to marginalize them, then how can I rely on you to lead the country in a way that is best for the people?
Rosa Parks would not sit at the back of the bus.
Racism is alive in our country and it breaks my heart when I see it; it breaks my heart that so many people face it every day. As a Christian, I believe that it is my duty to show Christ's love to everyone, and to see each person as He sees them: as people made in the image of God. My mom, in particular, is a hero in this regard and has been a tremendous example to me from my earliest memories when I remember her teaching me about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. I can recall her explaining to little Jeremiah the ugly face of racism and how in the 1960s my friend Abigail would have to use a different water fountain than me because she had pretty dark skin and I had pale skin. She taught this to me in the context of history and we both agreed that we hoped it would never have a place in our lives.
However, the sad truth is this, there is a strong, if small, movement in the United States to legitimize racism by capitalizing and on some of the fears created by globalization. This movement must be addressed, responded to, and defeated.
This is something I am committed to doing, and I hope you will join me.
"Colored Water Fountain" 
The question is how. First, I believe that to defeat this surge of hate and bigotry, we need to respond with love. Martin Luther King put it this way: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Second, I believe that we need well-crafted arguments backed by actual facts. No matter how wrong supporters of racism are, we are not doing our best to combat their view if we respond with less than logic and evidence; their ignorance can be mocked, but that doesn’t fix the problem. We need to show through reason and facts that racism and violence are contrary to what makes up a just society. Third, I believe that we need respond to whatever the evil they dish out with an even greater outpouring of good. If they target a particular community with hate, we target the same group with love and compassion. And that love and compassion should speak louder than any violence or hate. If they burn a church, we rebuild it bigger and better.
Martin Luther King Jr. 
Now for the harder question: how should we not respond? We should not in our zeal to defeat racist positions compromise our freedom. One basic thing that Americans hold dear is our love for freedom. The Founding Fathers gave us the First Amendment, filled with excellent examples of the freedom we hold dear. Included in that document is freedom to assemble, to speak, and to write. It isn’t freedom if we only allow freedom to do what we agree with and disallow what we disagree with. In other words, my freedom to speak about my hate of racism isn’t actually freedom if there isn’t also freedom for the racist. The law does not judge whose content is right. Freedom to speak and believe what you believe without the government telling you it is ok, is foundational to all our freedoms.
(Of course, actions and violence can be legally punished, and so the terrorist-style attack in Charlottesville should be punished and prosecuted with the utmost vigor of the law.)
A dark time in our history
What I am concerned about is this: that we no longer understand how to use our system to defeat evil. The law punishes actions. But ideas cannot be defeated with laws. We need to engage, each of us in our own way, to challenge those who promote hate and division in our country and respond by doing the things they hate the most, unifying and loving.
I don’t want to sound like a silly, shallow idealist. I am being pragmatic. Ideas have consequences and I am concerned that many people will embrace counterproductive strategies to “outlaw hate” that will not only erode our freedoms, but also distract us from actually dealing with the real problems in our land.
To kill bad ideas, we need good ideas and good people. Although sometimes over-quoted, I think two famous quotes are particularly appropriate for our situation. Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So now we need each of us, take responsibility for our actions, and actually face evil and hold ourselves, our friends, and our nation to a higher standard. Take this issue seriously. Go out of your way to challenge hate and to promote love. This is worth feeling awkward for. Don’t give into easy solutions that won’t fix the problem. Doing right often isn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean we give up.
Let us not be defined by division or hate, let us instead be defined by unity and love. That is an America worth fighting for.

Written by Jeremiah Lorrig
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