Memories of Charlottesville,
In 2016, things fell apart. The center lost its hold, and the worst of the far Right, full of passionate intensity, seemed poised to loose their blood-dimmed tide upon the world. With cracks suddenly appearing in the free-markets-and-phony-multiculturalism orthodoxy, Luxemburg’s old question was suddenly, shockingly, back on the table: socialism or barbarism? And it appeared barbarism had a considerable head start.
Four years ago, I was a groom’s maid in my dear friends’ wedding in a little chapel in Charlottesville. I’d spent many happy, moon-shining nights talking and walking the streets of the college town, 45 minutes from my home in Richmond, VA. When I learned armed fascists, confederates, white nationalists, and sundry other scum, emboldened by the pandering faux-Bonapartist businessman in the White House, were descending en masse on the community, I was no longer thinking about long-game Left strategy. I only knew we all had a duty.
The morning of Saturday, August 12th was drizzling and miserable when our crew from the Richmond DSA chapter set out. By the time we met up with other DSA chapters in Charlottesville, the storm clouds had cleared. After precautions, plans, and red armbands were shared, we set out for Emancipation Park. A comrade handed me a button that read, “No Race But Human.”
Emancipation Park – teargas? Cops or Nazis? Hard to tell.
Unlawful assembly declared –
Better move to McGuffey Park.
Pass the darkened windows of twee little shops, their handpainted sandwichboard signs folded up like sleeping birds.
Everyone’s offering water bottles,
but everyone has to pee.
Several people lie on stretchers in medic tents.
Now down the block, at the corner of Market Street –
They pass by:
Doughy boys in white polos with floppy Nazi haircuts sweated to foreheads
Colonel Sanders klansmen in bulletproof vests
White knight LARPers with Celtic cross shields
Olde Europa-fetishists shouting slurs at immigrants
(I wonder how many of their ancestors were spat at, dragging through Ellis Island, not yet considered white.)
There are some grizzled old bigots, but mostly, they’re startlingly young,
the glaring sun revealing on their faces the sallow stamp of 4chan and closed circuits of hate.
August Bebel once called the proto-fascist anti-Semitism of his day “the socialism of fools,” and rarely have I seen such fools as on that street.
They looked like little puffed-up cowards – fractured consciousnesses adrift in this viciously competitive, alienating, spiritually barren capitalist society that gambled away our future on speculative markets, leaving us stuck with a present in foreclosure.