To my friends in California
Letter to the editor of The Daily Californian, about the protests this weekend.
To my friends in California,
“First they came for the Muslims, and we said not this time mother fucker”. The quote set a tone for the national opposition. But the Niemöller original does not start out with ethnic groups. The original starts with “First they came for the Socialists,” and there is a reason Martin begins his list with the political opposition.
The German Communist Party, KPD, was the first political party outlawed. They had organized mass opposition to Hitler and destroying them was easy to do once the German military was at his command.
Popular support for the party had been undermined by its paramilitary arm Red Front (RF), a precursor to today’s Antifa. RF organized violent disruptions of Nazi gatherings and fought back when SA paramilitaries attacked peaceful KPD rallies.
RF were brave German men and women, willing to lay their lives down to stop Nazi rise to power. But in hindsight their violence proved integral to Nazi propaganda. It provided the pretense needed for the Nazi-controlled German military to murder, jail and silence the political opposition. KPD were “terrorists”, “enemies of the people”, and here were the pictures to prove it.
Donald Trump controls the most powerful military the world has seen, and the pictures that came out of Berkeley this weekend bolsters his ability to use it.
From this perspective, it does not matter that outside protesters came to campus wearing shields and gas masks. It does not matter that they pepper sprayed students and beat people with planks. It does not matter that the old man who went viral was instigating fights. It does not matter that he got pepper spray on him by accident.
It is all moot next to the old man on the ground with his red Trump hat, the burning American flag, and the words “Free Speech” engulfed in the flames.
There’s a reason professional video cut to benefit the Trump narrative of Antifa “terrorists” was online less than an hour after the clashes; Trump organizers are working day and night to shape public opinion. It’s working. His base here in Missouri is eating the propaganda up. Hundreds of thousands have shared the meme-style photos and the slick videos.
As representatives here in Missouri write legislation to allow confiscating our houses and cars for protesting, the propaganda from California is making their case for them.
Independent of morality or truth, there will be fewer attendees at our next rally here in Missouri. And when the time comes, fewer people, like Niemöller, will speak up.
Lenin famously noted the Bolsheviks stood for getting power through the ballot, but would reconsider after they got the guns. There may well come a time for violence. If it does we need you with us, not rotting in jail on a riot charge.
It hurts from the bottom of my stomach to ask you this, but I feel I have to. Take the punch. Let them pepper spray you. Let them spew hatred in your face - and stand firm. Document it happening and show the world who they are.
Don’t repeat the mistake of RF. Use the strength we have today to our advantage. Make the next viral article out of Berkeley be “Violent Trump Supporters Attack Peaceful Student Counter-Protest.”