A Fever Pitch: I think it is safe to say that this week will be seen as a turning point in this chapter of our history. The tenor of the conversation has changed since Charlottesville and Trump’s jaw-dropping defense of literal Nazis has pushed our national dialogue to a boiling point I never thought I would live to see. With more pro-fascism Nazi marches planned (and more counter-protests they could invade after being so emboldened), it could sometimes seem as though the only way forward is solely through violence. But this cannot be the path we take.
Now as I’ve said before, I support a person’s right to defend themselves if someone swings at you. But in our efforts to dismantle fascism, we must have more tools than a hammer. That is why today, I want to take a look at the great state of Illinois, whose State Senate recently passed a bill labeling Nazi groups as terrorist organizations.
Building the Toolbox: This bill hasn’t been passed into law, and I haven’t found any analysis of whether it will pass the State House, but said House is majority Democrat so I would think the bill’s odds are better than not. Their Governor, Bruce Rauner is a Republican, but with the amount of public outrage over Heather Heyer’s death, he might be arm-twisted into passing it anyway. Regardless of the bill’s ultimate outcome, Illinois provides us with a critical model of how we can combat fascism beyond demonstrations and protests. Our local politicians have far fewer constituents to report to than their Congressional counterparts, and their races are much cheaper to run; because of this, individual voices can have an outsized impact. As much as we are able, we must use the structures that are in place and turn them against fascist elements.
Additionally, individual cities can be pressured too. Its easy to forget, but remember that Charlottesville was originally over the removal of statues celebrating Secessionist generals. But just within the last few hours, Baltimore decided that it wanted nothing more to do with that vile history and tore down its Confederate monuments overnight. This move obviously doesn’t “fix” racism or the deep problems that pervade our society, but it is a commendable and necessary step towards that healing. Thus, Baltimore stands as another example of action we can take to combat fascism- remove their iconography, remove their rallying points. Put it in a museum if you must, with sufficient supporting information and context surrounding the Secessionist beliefs and actions. But statues like these have no place in the public square.
Shortcomings Aside…: Obviously, some states are beyond immediate hope of this taking place. Heavily Republican states are probably going to show no interest in upsetting the more vocal and most extreme core of their supporters, especially with Trump now bullhorning his support for them. But in every state that we can, we must try to push measures like this one. Every state that can pass such laws adds pressure to the remainder, every victory will add fuel to our brothers and sisters in those blood-red states to keep pressing forward.