In the past, our community has reacted appropriately to acts of violence motivated by prejudice and bigotry. Everyone from politicians and media outlets to business owners and private citizens readily denounce as thugs and lunatics those who paint symbols of hate on businesses and graveyards or threaten bar patrons in the middle of the night.
This made it all the more surprising to discover a growing Nazi skinhead and fascist presence here in the City of Gardens. Even more surreal has been the increasingly regular sight of these young men — shaved heads held high and displaying a wide selection of white power and Nazi tattoos — walking confidently through our streets, largely ignored and completely uninterrupted by the general public.
It’s easy for a community to rally around a single act of violence, and easier still to forget that no act of violence is committed in isolation. Every spraypainted slogan, every late-night beating requires a network of support, a community that will condone not only the act itself but the ideology from which it grew. Every swastika tattoo needs an artist, every hate pamphlet needs an author, and all of this activity is made possible only by the silent consent of the broader community.
In a recent interview, one member of the local Victoria Anti-Racist Network (VARN) stressed the need for sustained resistance against fascism in our communities. “My feeling is that any presence indicates some level of tolerance for [fascism] in our society.” He goes on to explain that only constant pressure from the broader community can prevent the level of organization and confidence required for fascist groups to risk acts of violence.
Fascism is not simply an unfortunate lifestyle choice, a personal opinion to be brushed aside and politely ignored; it has as its only goal the rise of bigotry and the decimation of every freedom our society has fought to secure. Nazis and others who promote hate and intolerance cannot be welcome on our streets, in our communities, or in our society. We can’t force these people into silence, but it is our job — yours and mine — to make it clear that those of us who think, feel and love unconditionally will never accept hate into our lives. M