Nonviolence And What It Means In The Case Of Richard Spencer

I know many of us are celebrating that Richard Spencer - the neo-Nazi - got decked. I loved watching it, too. It's was movie-caliber cosmic justice and enormously satisfying to my id.

That said, while I deeply loathe (and take very seriously) all this man represents, I personally chose not to share the video in celebration on my social media feeds. If you're reading this and also regard yourself as part of the peaceful-yet-relentless resistance, you should probably consider why you might share the video with enthusiastic support and advocate violence in Spencer's case but not overall.

I had to consider it, and this is what I concluded:

If we are to take on the mantle of nonviolence in our resistance, then we must own and defend it with unwavering commitment. For me, personally, Spencer is no worse than a sizable portion of politicians, cabinet members, voters or even Trump, himself. He's just a little more transparent. In fact, many of those men situated within the administration have knowingly and effectively oppressed and harmed people directly or indirectly through their dealings, policies and industries. Just because not all those sins are buried in American soil does not make them any less egregious.

We cannot claim nonviolence as we protest only to embrace violence when it gives us pleasure (rather than in the face of imminent danger) and thinly justify it by saying "but THIS one is a Nazi."

Aren't many of them? Also, what about when local neo-Nazi Skinheads and Klansmen were committing actual violent crimes against communities of color rather than merely spewing hate speech as Spencer has? Did you advocate direct violent retribution or did you lobby for justice through traditional systems?

This isn't a judgement or rhetorical question, but a serious inquiry worthy of consideration, especially as we face a very real and potentially explosive national/international crisis under the new administration.

The answer certainly demands more care than the whims of our id. We may decide our id is correct, but we may decide otherwise. Whatever we decide, we should be aware that there are serious consequences to both.

I was 14 years old when a 20-year-old Nazi skinhead threw me over a porch railing and cracked two of my ribs by kicking me while I was down.

He'd asked me about all my anti-Nazi pins, then asked if I was "some kind of k**e."

I shrugged my shoulders and said, "what if I am?"

He asked my name and I told him.

"That's a f*****g k**e name."

That was the last thing I heard before he charged me and threw me over the railing on which I was sitting. The ground was about 5 feet down. Then he jumped and started kicking.

He was pulled off me by friends and then received swift street justice. It might have saved my life, but I doubt it. He was drunk and his rage rapidly running out. Either way, it wasn't my choice. Friends and strangers made it for me, and I was grateful, but in that moment I would've been just as happy had they merely pulled him off me. I would have been happy to see him serve time rather than vanish into the night with fresh fuel for his anger.

It was the first and only crime committed against me for being an ethnicity I wasn't. Now, violent crimes for being a woman? For being an autistic kid? That's another matter. I didn't need to encounter neo-Nazis for those, just your standard monsters.

Except in cases of self defense or in which someone is in immediate/imminent danger, violence stays out of the equation for me because I've chosen to make that commitment. Not everyone will nor do I expect them to do so. I cannot pretend to know the deep pain of others, only my own.

For me, justice is deeply important, and I often remind myself not to confuse justice with revenge or rage.

I have made the deeply personal commitment to live by this. I've known violence, much of it severe, since I was a child. I know violence and its trappings so well that I've frightened myself with my own capacity for brutality. Given my experiences, privileges, philosophy and personal beliefs, I carefully chose my tactic of resistance just as others must chose theirs.

There's much discussion to be had on the merits of violent resistance versus nonviolent resistance, but that's not the issue, here. The issue is that we must be careful not to conflate the two, and we must understand the endgame of each before we commit to either. If you, yourself, claim ONLY nonviolent resistance, then you commit to that until you don't. And, in that case, be prepared to see that choice through. There's a tipping point for everyone, and no one decides that tipping point for anyone else.

But until we know our own boundaries, we must be careful as to what message we spread. In other words, we must be mindful of what we advocate.

Violent resistance is, for me, the court of last resort. It absolutely has its place. I'm just not comfortable with advocating for literal civil war (the endgame of violent resistance) at this point. I happen to think that, at this point, we still have a lot of nonviolent avenues to pursue.

Whether you agree with that or don't is something I'll leave to you. I can only offer my experience, my choice and why I made that choice. I'm not here to make it for anyone else.

I've often said that "terror is the court of last resort for a people denied all legitimate means of discourse." I have not personally been denied all legitimate means of discourse, so I'm speaking only for myself. I certainly don't speak for others who differ from me in terms of privilege or access.

Be aware. Be watchful. Be conscious. Resist.