On August 12, 2017, a woman named Heather Heyer was murdered by a white nationalist who plowed his car into a crowd of protesters. Her friends have recalled her as an essentially decent person dedicated to fighting injustice, passionate about making the world a better place. She was, in short, a hero who died fighting white supremacy.
As is often the case with such tragedies, some have — in a move of breathtaking intellectual dishonesty — suggested that we not “politicize” her death. By this they mean: do not call upon President Trump to explicitly condemn the bigoted movement that produced her death, do not seek to demolish the monuments to the Confederacy against which she marched, do not speak of her death as having any political significance at all. In their eyes, apparently, Ms. Heyer’s death is an unfortunate but isolated incident, pertaining to nothing in particular.
Such a suggestion rests upon the false supposition that if we did not vindicate in death the principles by which Ms. Heyer lived her life, this would be “non-political.” To the contrary, erasing the beliefs of those who fight and die in pursuit of justice is the most “political” move of all; it necessarily entails a pretense that reality is not as it is in service of maintaining a fundamentally unjust status quo.
Sadly, I did not have the privilege of knowing Ms. Heyer (nor, notably, do those self-righteously denouncing the so-called “politicization” of her death). Accordingly, I cannot speak to what she would have wanted now. But having observed the eternal rhetorical move of the Right in the face of tragedy — to silence its ideological opponents by condemning them as insensitive when they demand justice in the wake of horror — I feel it worthwhile to make clear now, as explicitly as possible, what I want to happen if I should ever meet a similar fate. Maybe you should, too. Perhaps this, at least, will give shills like Tomi Lahren even the slightest pause before claiming to speak to what I — or you — would have wanted in death. Shameless as they are, certainly nothing less has ever stopped them before.
If I die at the hands of a Nazi, politicize my death. Pull out all of the stops. Condemn the hateful movement that nourished and motivated my killer. Instead of flowers, send donations to the causes — unapologetic, anti-Nazi, anti-white supremacist, causes — I supported during my lifetime. Rather than an obituary, write an op-ed. Leverage my death for “political gain”: demand the condemnation of the rising power of hate groups in the United States, the destruction of altars to a traitorous movement dedicated to the preservation of slavery, an end to the influence of racists and white nationalists at any level of government.
I want to go out as I lived: causing the far-right as much consternation as possible by doing what little I can to make the world a better place. So, if I die at the hands of a Nazi, politicize my death.