The Antifa In Me: My bracelet.
My antifa bracelet came today, and I was happy to wear it.
I surprised myself when I bought it, I was doing some research online for a piece I was writing, and I came across an advertisement – or it came across me, as happens these days – for an "antifa" bracelet that cost $20 and was made by a small group of artists and activists in Boston. It was on Etsy, of all places.
Did Google know something about me that I didn't really know?
I didn't think much about it, I just bought it, something inside of me just said I should have it, that the idea of it was inside of me.
During all the back and forth about Charlottesville, I was stunned, as so many were, at the sight of Nazi's (there are no neo-Nazi's to me, that is a media term) and white supremacists marching with their torches through an American city, hiding behind the dark and promising in their chants and songs to get rid of the Jews and African-Americans they see as having taken over their lives and their culture.
I suppose I should say that I am not much into violence, and believe strongly in the right of people to speak freely, as I have been privileged enough to be able to do. I have never assaulted anyone or broken any windows.And I don't own any black hoodies or armored vests.
Antifa stands for "Militant anti-fascist" (it is pronounced ANtifa) and is most often described as a radical pan-leftist coalition of people who embrace the politics of social revolution as it applies to the rise of fascist movements whose spoken aim is kill people who are different from them.
Some people say the tactics of the Antifa and those of the Nazi's are similar and both share the blame for violence caused by them.
On the surface, this has little to do with me and my life on the farm as an author. But it seems it does have something to do with me, Google saw it before I did.
After Charlottesville, I did think a lot about my cousin Michael, he was old when I met him, he was a survivor of the genocides and horrors committed upon Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust. There were lots of people like Michael around in those days, shell-shocked refugees all over the world.
Michael appeared to be a thoughtful, soft-spoken man, he never spoke of the war, as was the case with most people who actually fought in it.
He was a retired school teacher when I met him, but I knew from others that his wife, brother and sister, parents and three children, were all slaughtered by Nazis and white supremacists, at least a few of them burned to death as they tried to hide in a synagogue.
He was a remote figure to me, he wasn't very social, I rarely got to see him.
One day we were alone on the porch of a relative's house, we were there to celebrate a holiday. He was suddenly aware of me, and we talked and got curious about one another. I has been warned not to ask him about the war, but I couldn't help but ask him how he escaped – he joined a partisan resistance movement and fought in the hills around Budapest.
What stuck in my mind about Michael, not his original name, I'm sure, was when he turned to me and said "we should have done something. We should have seen it coming. We should have tried to stop them before they marched through the streets and flaunted their power and killed everyone I love."
He said he would never forgive himself for not having fought sooner to save his family. And then he turned to me and almost burned holes in my chest when he said softly, "don't ever let them do that to the people you love, don't ever look away."
It's a slippery slope for me. There have been many genocides and holocausts in the world since World War II, some are being carried out today. No one people owns the idea of a holocaust or of genocide. There are very good people in the world and very bad people in the world, and when we can no longer tell the difference, we are in deep soul trouble.
I was aware of the matriarchal culture in which I was raised – Irish people and African-Americans speak of the same phenomena – and I once asked an aunt why the Jewish families around us all were all dominated by strong women. "Because our worst nightmares about our children came true again and again and again," she said, "and when your worst nightmares come true, a mother cannot ever stop being afraid. We became strong because we had to be strong, no one could protect us."
The idea behind the antifas is to stop fascism before we get used to it and it becomes just some more background noise in the political and media din, another argument for cable news panelists. That, they believe, is how holocausts happen, one blind eye or shrug at a time.
My heart seems to be with them, they are not the equivalent of Nazi's to me.
Antifas have been around a long time, the media just discovered them after the started breaking things in Berkeley, Calif. Some are violent, most are not.
They are most often independent anti-racist groups that monitor the activities of Nazi's and white supremacists. They expose them to neighbors and employers, they support migrants and refugees and try to protect them, they try to prevent Nazi's from holding their white power events in public places.
I am not a member of any such group, and am certainly not telling anyone else to join, I am just explaining, as I often try to do, my own life, and how it is evolving. I have never mentioned antifas on my blog.
I like to think I would have run with the antifas back there in Hungary like my cousin Michael did, only he said it was too late when he decided to do it.
I am not about to cover my head in a black hood, or punch people in the streets. I think I am too old for that, and it is not really my nature or my idea of how a democracy works. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
I find myself being grateful to these mostly young kids who have such a clear sense of right and wrong and don't hide or equivocate or rationalize morality like the rest of us. They are not waiting for the world to agree with them, they have been aroused by our current political trauma.
I wish them well, they are not "bad dudes" to me.
If I can't run around the streets, I do think of my uncle Michael and the many other Michaels in the world, then and now, what I can do is buy an antifa bracelet and wear it on my right wrist every day until nobody marches in our streets with torches promising to kill people who have done no wrong.
Life is really remarkable, at least for me. I just never know where I am going to go or how I got there.