This weekend a line was crossed, a bright red line painted in the blood of over 400 thousand Americans who died to end the scourge of Nazism forever. Chanting “Blut und Broden”, or its easy translation, children with far more energy than sense attempted to define Americanism by what has been demonstrated and defined to be its exact opposite.
Like their apparent heroes, they are losers. But they having chosen the losing side of history for predictably bad reasons beyond a simple moral failure. Their inability to learn from history is a feature of a nation incapable of learning from history and thus in need to constantly redefine itself.
As much power as there is in constant redefinition, there is also a need for constant vigilance. History is calling us today. Millions of ghosts are watching us waiting for us to make the right decision.
The call to rally in Charlottesville, Virginia started as a rally to defend a statue of Robert E Lee. His treason to the nation which put him through West Point is often overlooked by the romance of a losing cause redefined away from its defense of the indefensible institution of slavery. It’s about culture, they proclaim, nevermind how that culture was built on the brutal exploitation of those it enslaved.
The use of Nazi flags and slogans conflated a more recent despicable history in a way that only added to the disgrace. But it ignored another history close by which is far more complicated.
Charlottesville, after all, was home to Thomas Jefferson. The children who marched might be forgiven for some of their moral confusion since much of it is at the heart of America itself. The man who so eloquently defined the rights of all people was, after all, a white supremacist himself. He never regarded his own slaves as people, entitled to the rights he demanded from a powerful empire.
Not to forgive Jefferson in any way, but his supremacy seems to have come from a personal inability to take care of himself. Daily life was a struggle for this ethereal man more concerned with lofty ideals than simply finding a meal or finishing the construction of his house. Rather than resolve this conflict, he deployed mental gymnastics which were never resolved satisfactorily, asserting rights while simultaneously denying them.
This conflict is at the core of our nation.
The inability to resolve this runs deeper than the obvious read of history since then, which is that Jefferson’s limitations are not something we can possibly live with. We recognized that slavery is immoral and incompatible with a democratic republic. We defeated supremacy and the death that it brings.
We stood up to fascism and must do it again.
Barataria has said many times that economic cycles appear to be the result of us forgetting the lessons our grandparents tried to teach us. So it appears to be with political thought. We forget because we appear to have that luxury, we forget because we appear to simply be lazy. But it is clear that we forget far too easily that the moral ambiguity at the core of our founding has been resolved.
What is the way forward? Like all learning, it has to start with an open mind. High ideals are no substitute for humanity and love. This includes noble ideals such as liberty and degenerate excuses like supremacy. When we forget our humanity we lose the purpose behind any great concepts which ennoble us as quickly as we can succumb to the allure of the horrors which degrade us.
The way forward builds on history – not forgotten, but absorbed. We know better, and we have known better for a long time.
Every American must reject the cause on display this weekend completely. There is no excuse for not doing so. The way forward requires us to reject moral ambiguity and develop a strong clarity of purpose just as a generation now quietly passing did not so very long ago.
The fight is now ours. We must honor our true heritage and stand to the challenge, if for no other reason than to honor those who fell for the same challenge before.
Nazism can never be any part of Americanism.