Friday, April 22, 2005

Peace Vigil Notes

The peace vigil I attend almost didn't happen, tonight, and it's not clear how much longer it is going to continue. Groups have a life cycle, and this one seems to be at a rather low point in terms of energy. Many people have moved on to other sites of activism where there is currently a feeling of momentum, while others have succumbed to entirely understandable despair and slipped, at least for awhile, into inactivity. Thankfully, we stuck around and enough folk showed up to make it worthwhile. But I'm worried my most consistent lifeline to social movement activity is going to shrivel up before the end of our tenure in Los Angeles.

And thank goodness we did manage to make it happen tonight. I had a chance to have an actual, in person encounter with an honest-to-goodness right-wing nut case. He's a young, testosterone-exuding guy who lives nearby and apparently has visited the vigil before, though I've never seen him. He spent some time taking our picture from across the street and then came over and engaged us in a strange approximation of dialogue. He seemed only marginally capable of listening, and not at all of any kind of self-reflection.

He repeatedly accused us "liberals" (true for some, not for others) of being too emotional and not rational enough, by which I think he meant we shouldn't get too upset when folks die or suffer and we should just understand that history has to work that way. Yet he recommended Sean Hannity as a good source of information, a right-wing hack in the employ of Fox News who is all about illogical, emotion-based argument that is not rational and that is sloppy with facts.

At another point, one of my co-vigilers was making some point about there being less suffering and death in the Soviet Union under Stalin than is commonly thought -- a point that I didn't think I agreed with, but which she didn't get a chance to finish -- and his immediate rejoinder was to interrupt her repeatedly and ask if she was a Holocaust denier.

He also worked extremely hard to maintain the position that, yes, the expanding United States killed many Aboriginal people and broke treaties and conquered their nations and forced them off of their land, but it wasn't genocide -- "It was war, which is just something that happens, and they lost, so tough for them" seemed to be his position. He expressly endorsed the historical practice of forcing Aboriginal people off their land and making them assimilate, and claimed it was justified because they had been conquered; when it was pointed out that this met the definition of "ethnic cleansing" he forcefully disagreed and got very upset. He also accused Ward Churchill of being a denier of the Jewish Holocaust, which is a ridiculous right-wing fabrication which has no basis in what Churchill has actually written.

It was a kind of surreal experience. It wasn't dialogue because he wasn't willing to listen and actually engage, just to sort of jump from topic to topic and make statements without feeling any need to support them while accusing us of having no facts to back up what we were saying. Which isn't to say that "our" side is always without people who engage in discussion in that way, but at least today we had no hotheads with a taste for yelling matches in attendance. And he repeatedly referred to grown women (much older than himself, as it happens) as "miss" and once as "hon."

It was weird.

1 comment:

rabfish said...

wow, what a surreal night