As a Jew who just moved from New York City back to the South about three months ago, I think I held it together pretty well last week when it came to the events that transpired in Charlottesville, Virginia and their aftermath across the Bible Belt.
As with most people my age, I expressed my anger, outrage, frustration, and depression to my 617 closest friends on Facebook, which helped me hold it together.
I shared a few funny memes (which shouldn’t actually be funny, but are because we are living in the Twilight Zone), which helped me hold it together.
I nodded with a vigor like I’ve never nodded before as I watched Last Week Tonight with John Oliver as he said everything I was feeling about Trump’s failure as a leader after Charlottesville, which helped me hold it together.
I confided to my parents that an angry mob, albeit a small one, pulling down a Confederate monument in front of the Durham County Courthouse 15 minutes from my house scared me (regardless of whether they had the moral high ground), which helped me hold it together.
But then I read the statement put out from the Tiki torch company in response to Charlottesville. That’s when I could no longer hold it together and broke down in tears. Here is what they had to say:
TIKI Brand is not associated in any way with the events that took place in Charlottesville and are deeply saddened and disappointed. We do no support their message or the use of our products in this way. Our products are designed to enhance backyard gatherings and to help family and friends connect with each other at home in their yard.
I don’t even know if it was what they said that set me off as much as the fact that they had to and felt compelled to say it. The company that makes those goofy looking torches, the ones that people put in their yards and that corny island-themed restaurants have, had to disavow the neo-Nazis and Klan members who bought their product in mass for their midnight hate march. The company had to remind people that their products should be used to bring people together, not to further divide an already extremely divided country and terrorize non-“Aryan” folks.
Really sit back and let that sink in for a moment. I’ll admit I’m a little off my rocker to begin with, but I think once anyone lets that concept percolate a bit, they’ll understand why that was just the final straw for me.
In all my thoughts and contemplations of what this blog would be, I never imagined I’d be writing this post. Growing up in Florida, while the Confederate flag wasn’t everywhere, it was sadly not usual to see people brandishing it in some way, whether it was on t-shirts, belt buckles, or stickers on their trucks or cars. You always knew who the real assholes were, though, (pardon my language, but it just feels appropriate this time) because they were the people who actual flew the flag itself. (See, for example this guy who flies the largest Confederate flag in the world on his property over the I-75 and I-4 interchange near Tampa.) But I always got the sense from the greater collective community where I lived that these people were the fringe. We tolerate these people because they were “set in their ways,” not hurting anyone, and would die out in a few generations.
I don’t know what to say now, though. I guess we were wrong? Here I am on a blog meant to document what it is like to move to a new town in the South and I have to write a piece about how it feels to see white men carrying flaming torches in the middle of the night screaming, “Jews will not replace us!” and literal Nazi slogans like “Blood and soil” because that is sadly part of the experience.
The only thought I have left on this is one I have to keep telling myself over and over again because it is hard to remember when faced with these truly depressing times. We’ve got to keep actively fighting for good and putting light out into the world. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds as I have a feeling the subject matter will be therapeutic.