One of the most poignant, theatric — and yes, ridiculous — moments from Charlottesville yesterday that I recall, happened before we even entered the park. I rode in the second wave of the convoy carrying our people up to the entrance. Various vehicles were deployed, vans and pickup trucks and such, and we rode in a pickup truck. As we drew nearer to the park, a few blocks off from the drop point, a young father on the sidewalk suddenly snatched up his tiny daughter, who looked about 3 or 4 years old, protectively and began running down the street hollering horrible things at us as we passed by.
We were nowhere near the sidewalk. We showed no signs of aggression toward him or anyone else. We posed no threat to anyone. Other than how we had dressed — in vests, pads and helmets designed to protect us from the typical violence initiated by domestic terrorist groups at events like these — we might have been any bunch of a half dozen adults out for a Saturday joyride in the breeze, hanging out in a truck bed, chatting, laughing, and minding our own business.
We were minding our own business. And it’s not as if this man had nary a clue what was going on in town until that specific nondescript pickup rolled by. It did not stand out like the white passenger fleet vans did, and this was the second wave of transport from our staging point that morning. At that point in our journey we could all hear and see the edges of the larger commotion awaiting us already.
So this bizarre pearl-clutching behavior, this melodramatic child-upsnatching, seemed entirely unwarranted, staged only to press the stale, tiresome stigma of demonization, a matter with which I am eminently familiar and which will not be permitted to play or prey upon my mind, heart, soul or conscience, ever. His ludicrous, overblown LARPing just formed a crass, clumsy attempt to portray us as villains. To him, we were villains: villains for having different opinions from his, villains for daring to hold opinions of which he disapproved, maybe villains for voting differently from him. Most of all, we were villains for not being as unashamed of what we actually stand for as he was of utterly failing to even try to comprehend it. In his eyes, we were villains because he couldn’t be bothered to find out what we actually thought, felt, or believed in. He obviously felt content to buy somebody else’s twist on it as more authoritative in that regard than our own exclusively qualified testimonies concerning the contents of our own convictions.
As he recoiled, I called out to him almost instinctively: “HEY, we love our children too!”
Someone — either himself or someone nearby — shouted an obscenity in response.
Whomever it was, like him, like his toddler child, they were clearly too young to remember. They were probably not even born when, in 1982, sixth-grader Samantha Smith of Manchester, Maine, penned her letter to newly elected Yuri Andropov asking why would he want war, and “don’t the Russians love their children, too?” In a time where there was no internet, and thus no instant Twitter-celebrity status for a clever quip or heinous quote, this schoolgirl captured the heart of the nation with her poignant question. Her legacy is all but forgotten today, as an online search for the phrase “Russians love their children too” yields only reference to Sting’s lyrical hopes penned three years later. The specific query is not quoted as part of her letter, but everyone alive in 1982 remembers it as one either first posed by her earnestly, or one anticipated and pre-emptively answered by Mr. Andropov in his response.
I am old enough to remember her, before the dismantling of the Berlin wall. The choice of words on my part was as atavistic and intentional as it was instinctual.
You call us Nazis and racists. You call us fascists and white supremacists. You demonize us and dehumanize us because you are afraid and because you do not understand us, and because you are afraid to understand us. You imagine every manner of vile, twisted, evil to fester in our hearts continually, simply because we assert unapologetically our right to exist. Yet never do you pause to consider that we love our children too.
We love our children, too.
We kiss them goodnight, we tuck them in with stories and songs, we teach them with our level best to be brave in life, to take risks and survive, to embrace challenge and not give up. We teach them to stand strong even if it means to stand alone, to have the courage of their convictions, to be honest and true, to become men and women worthy to create a legacy to outlast them. We tickle them and play with them, read to them and sing to them, pass on our stories and values to them, caress their brows as they sleep and wipe tears from our eyes when we think of the world they might inherit if we fail at our task.
I am not suggesting we are all alike, or all the same “deep down”. We aren’t. Our differences are becoming clearer every single day, and they run far deeper than simply our opinions or political views. I will not delineate them. There is no point in trying. You will believe you are right and justified and of superior character than we are, and think us deluded or misled or just plain malicious, and imagine you know some dark “truth” about us that we somehow simultaneously lack the self-awareness to grasp and still only toy with you by “refusing” to admit. And we will know, instead — or at least believe and think we know — that we are the ones on the right side of history, that time will prove what mere words cannot persuade, and that an integrity and honor you lack is our unique possession. And so forth, and so on.
So no, I will not suggest we are all alike, or “all the same deep down.” What I am suggesting is only that we are human.
We are human.
We are not the bogeymen you desperately seek. We are not the scapegoat you desperately need.
We love our children too. We have no desire nor intention whatsoever to harm yours.
But sadly enough, there are people who do, and we have heard them say so.
And we don’t think it a sufficient response to nod at that with feigned sagely patience, or stare quietly at the ground in stunned chagrin, hoping to affect the appropriate level of toe-scuffing that will disarm them from their murderous intentions. We don’t see any use in wringing our hands in spastic ethno-masochism, saying how awful, not that they would think such things but that we somehow drove them to that point and that we now somehow owe it to them to give that a free pass. Not while they state explicitly that they clearly intend our children to have no future place at the table in our nation’s leadership, and certainly not while they preach that to overcome their own struggles they must eventually take to literally slaughtering helpless infants just for being white.
We are the ones sounding the alarm you need to hear whether you like it or not. We love our children too, so we are going to keep sounding that alarm whether you want to listen or not. We are not going away, because we will not be silenced, shamed or replaced. Like it or not, we are doing our goddamned job. And that screeching call to WAKE UP NOW is going to get louder and louder until you do.
Because we love our children too, and we think you should love yours at least as much.
(1) Samantha Smith, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samantha_Smith
(2) Sting, “Russians”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russians_(song)
(3) Reference pending — a conversation aired on the radio or internet in which someone said in order to have racial & social justice for non-white people, it was not enough for white people to “make room at the table” but that they had to “give up their seats at the table” entirely. Will be cited once located again.
(4) See, e.g., “Kill Crackers, Kill Their Babies”, https://youtu.be/lNVfixSmSA8 from 2012 Philadelphia meeting of the Black Panthers. Other unhinged persons and terrorist organizations such as Louis Farrakhan and La Raza have echoed similar calls for murder against white people.