This morning my teenage son came into the kitchen fuming. As I was pouring my first cup of coffee he was talking about throwing Molotov cocktails at White Supremacists.
Me: That doesn’t work.
My Son: They are running our people down!! It’s time to fight back!!
Me: It’s natural to feel that way. I think we all feel that way, right now. But it doesn’t work. That’s all I’m saying.
For a while he played with his phone and looked annoyed. I sipped my coffee. Then suddenly my son looked up, righteous anger in his eyes.
My Son: So what works?
Me: The same thing that always works, compassion.
My Son: So just love hatemongers?!! So just hug away the problems?!! Are you serious?!! I thought you loved Bernie Sanders!! Now’s the time for revolution!!
Me: This, as painful as it is, is part of our Revolution. There are very real battles happening in America. People died in this one. We can’t disgrace what they stood for by murdering people, as much as we may want to.
My Son: How does love beat hate? I mean how, actually, using this situation, can you imagine that happening. They will just kill us. They have no souls.
Me: They think the same about us. And if you go throwing Molotov cocktails into their “pride” celebration then they will return home to their communities and some will see them as martyrs. Some as patriots and heroes. And this will make them sympathetic to some. And they will meet in the shadows and whisper to each other about how “it’s illegal to be white in this country.” And they will feel empowered to attack innocent people, because they will be doing exactly what you’re doing. Through your desire to protect the innocent, you are allowing your anger to distort your viewpoint. You keep saying us and them. I used to think this was all just hippie bullshit, but the truth of the matter is that those men are not as different from us as you might think. They are just misguided. They are the victims of Fox News and Breitbart. They believe a lie and that lie makes them afraid. It’s like Yoda in Star Wars, when he says that “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to suffering.” That’s what you’re feeling now. It’s the same thing those guys in Virginia feel, because they believe a lie. That’s not fun to hear, because you are hurting and your ego wants gratification, but if someone uses violence against these people, it will embolden their cause. If you don’t react, it exposes them for exactly what they are. And people who normally don’t even care about politics will wake up and be angry. And we can invite them in and they will become brothers and sisters in our cause.
My Son: Our cause? Back to Bernie Sanders? What does Bernie Sanders have to do with White Supremacists murdering innocent people?
Me: Not Bernie Sanders, but his message. We could just as soon say Martin Luther King or John Lennon or Siddhartha Gautama. But yeah, Bernie has a message and it’s to love one another. And it’s a message of Revolution through peaceful means. And I know that seems weak when all you want to do is load up your gun and go exact revenge, but history has shown us that we win through love and peace. These guys, these dudes holding their stupid Tiki-torches, looking like they just walked off the sex-offender registry website already make themselves look bad to almost everyone who observes them. Many of these guys have little kids and they try to train them to be hateful just like they are. If Daddy comes home with third degree burns because “some libtard threw a Molotov cocktail” at him then those children will be indoctrinated into that thinking. Their Daddy will be a victim, a hero, a patriot. Not reacting is the hardest thing to do in times like these. It is literally the one thing that has furthered our cause throughout history. When you are being attacked you have the right to defend yourself. But long-term change has always come from peaceful protest. It’s Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus. It’s Gandhi refusing to eat. And sometimes it’s dying. It takes a type of courage that these wannabe patriots cannot even comprehend. They act out of fear. We act out of love. That’s how we win.
My Son: Okay, well I’m going over to that Nazi’s house on the next block and I’m going to steal his fucking Nazi flags right off his front porch.
Me: And what will that solve?
My Son: I don’t know.
Me: It will make you feel better for a minute, right? Let’s not talk about all the shit that can go wrong, like you getting shot or arrested or both. Let’s assume you get away with it. What does it accomplish?
My Son: So you think it’s okay that that dude just sits out there with his symbols of hatred?! You think it’s okay that people have to walk by and see that shit?!
Me: I think it’s more than okay. I think it’s necessary and helpful.
My Son: Helpful HOW!!??
Me: Does he look like he’s happy sitting out there? Does he look powerful? Do you think little kids walking down the street see him sitting there with that Nazi flag and want to grow up to be like him?
My Son: No.
Me: He’s a fucking monument dude. He’s a warning to everyone of what will happen to them if they don’t open up their hearts. They will end up old and alone and bitter and watching their world slip away. And the sad thing is that the world isn’t slipping by. It’s getting better. And that man with the Nazi flag is scared and that fear is keeping him from taking part in this beautiful new world we are creating. Besides I like my racists labeled, so I can see them coming.
My Son: I never thought of it like that.
Me: And that symbol of hatred causes little kids to ask their parents what it means and parents can explain to their babies and teach them the importance of love from an early age.
My Son: I didn’t think about that either.
Me: Can I tell you one more reason why we would never steal his flag? Because all it would do would be to prove his point about how evil the world is and make him feel more justified in his hate. You can knock down a building, but they will just build it stronger the next time. You can steal his flag and he’ll go on eBay and buy two. Because, in his mind, he will be fighting the oppressor. The way you eliminate an enemy is by making them your friend.
My Son: Okay, I feel better.
Me: I love your anger. You will need it. Just direct it properly is all. If we go around silencing those we disagree with, then we violate The First Amendment and if The First Amendment goes, the whole thing goes and that document is very wise. It was basically an exact copy of The French Constitution. They saw that it was working there and knew that these principles were universal and would work here. And they do. It’s not pretty, but they end up working out in spite of the inherent foolishness of man.
My Son: Yeah, but the French also had to go and chop off a bunch of heads to get shit done, too.
Me: Yeah, well it may yet come to that. But we’re not there yet. And as long as we have means to exercise peace than we do that. We win this war through peace and love. Civil war isn’t as glamorous as you think it is.
My Son: I know it’s not. You said that you would make the Nazi guy into your friend. How do you do that?
Me: Well, I noticed that in the paper he said that he flies his Nazi flag “because the liberals are trying to take away his First Amendment rights.” And that was literally the only line that the newspaper gave him. An entire article written about the dude and they only quoted him one time. Kind of ironic. I want to give him an opportunity to speak. I’m going to listen to him. And I’m going to film it so others can hear him too. And I’m not going to be mean. And I’m not going to attack him. I’m going to compassionately listen. My goal isn’t to make him look foolish.
My Son: No, he’ll do that all by himself.
Me: I suspect he might. Or maybe while he is talking he might notice some inconsistencies in his thinking. We all tend to do that when we find someone who actually cares enough to listen. But that’s not for me to decide or to attempt to manipulate the situation in that manner. I sincerely want to listen to him and I sincerely want to hear him. And when you do those things, you would be surprised at how small the distances between humans actually are.
My Son: And everybody sees the interview and they see how foolish those antiquated views are.
Me: That’s how we win.
My Son: Yeah. That’s how we win.