1968 marked a worldwide revolt. And in Germany, that uprising was ignited by the first post-WWII generation, young people wondering how the hell their parents—how their aunts, uncles, teachers and neighbors—had allowed Hitler to come to power. My grandmother (don’t tell the identity-politics police, plz) was living in Germany when the war ended. Sometimes, I wonder what she was like then, and whether or not, at age 18 or 20, she too had been whipped up into a fascist fervor. How many times does one have to say “heil Hitler” before it’s no longer a struggle? How long until abiding by the rules becomes complicity? It’s not something she likes to talk about, which I guess is understandable.
Gozamos recently ran an article on attacking “so-called liberals” for applauding the student-led shutdown of Donald Trump’s planned UIC rally on Friday. The writer, someone I truly respect, argues the disruption was an affront not only to the Donald’s right to free speech, but—as the world once again teeters on the edge of a fascist turn—to “democracy.”
Now, I could spend all day picking apart this line of thinking. I could point out that the First Amendment wasn’t ever really meant to protect folks like my buddy Hector or I, but to protect the ruling classes. That Trump—and Bernie, Hillary, Cruz, Rubio, et al—spend millions making sure their voices are heard (in fact, they have access to methods of exercising those rights most of us could never dream of). That UIC is a public university, and so the fact that students exercised sovereignty over their own damn campus is probably a better measure of democracy. That the Trump campaign cancelled the event. That the line between where one’s rights end and another’s begin is, by definition, fuzzy.
But I won’t. The issue is far simpler than all that.
I have no interest in attacking Trump supporters, mostly working-class rightwingers who are just as fed up with this sham of a representative “democracy” as I am, though I abhor their ideologies. Because admittedly, I am not a “so-called liberal.” So I’ll leave it to those folks to wax poetic about the Constitution or Bernie or whatever. But from a radical left perspective, the shutdown of Trump’s rally has nothing to do with the ever-problematic dialogue of rights—you know, those elusive legalized privileges nation-states apply selectively or totally revoke at their convenience. Instead, the issue is one of responsibility. And Chicago rose to the occasion.
Tethering ourselves to civility politics, and all its icky colonial implications, is not a strategy I’d ever get behind. And in the face of violence—from the goddamn KKK and other scum—limiting our actions to only those that do not disrupt, or put another way, those that are easily ignored, is bad organizing. Always playing by rules that were designed to protect white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalism—incidentally, the markers of so-called “civility”—is cowardice, especially when people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake. It is our responsibility to protect one another, to protect our undocumented or trans or black or headscarf-wearing compañeroas–not the interests of capital or the state. Solidarity against fascism-on-the-rise trumps (yes, trumps) respectability in my book, especially when exercised by black, white and brown Americans, women, Muslims, immigrants, liberals, anarchists, queers, men and hardass antifascists, together.
The struggle against a resurgent fascism will not end if Trump is defeated. And it is struggle we must continue. To do otherwise will put us on the wrong side of history.