There they were, red flags with black swastikas flying, US flags flying, new banners — oddly beautiful in a dark fantastic kind of way — banners hybridizing the black, the red, the red-white-and-blue, and of course the good old blue and gray stars and bars of a racist unrepentant South. The Nazis came to Madison today. They had a permit. They had police protection and ten foot tall chain-link steel barricades to protect them. More importantly, they had the US Constitution to protect them.
The cops wore kevlar. They appeared in full riot drag, gas masks at the ready, a dozen mounted officers, a huge number of state patrol officers, sheriff’s deputies, and Madison police, all positioned to face outward, protecting the savage monkey-men on the marble steps from those who had come to encounter them.
(Beth remarked that this would be a good time to be speeding on the Interstate… all of the patrolmen were at the Capitol). Why were we there? Why weren’t you? Only about 1000 Madisonians showed up, plus 300 police and a couple dozen National Socialist Movement representatives. Five supporters of the Nazis were in a cage near the podium, sieg heiling when the Fuhrer said “Sieg heil!” As usual the AP miscounted… there really were only a couple dozen of the hatemongers, and a thousand or so demonstrators.
“What does ‘Sieg Heil’ mean?” I was asked. I ran it through Babel Fish and came out with… “Victory Welfare.” “Hale victory,” maybe? I know what it means to the Bozos that were giving their stiff armed salute and shouting it out. It means: “We are so freaking alienated that we will dress in thirties German whitebread drag right down to the armbands and a few fetishistic Wehrmacht helmets…” (when I say Nazi helmet, what do you think of?)
But seriously… I was glad to see hundreds and hundreds of young people giving them the finger every time they “sieg heiled,” the students chanting “Boring, boring, boring, boring” in endless repetition while the mindless buffoon at the microphone spewed his bizarre rhetoric about colonial wars and ending immigration and what-not. I was glad to see the not-white group hoisting beach towels imprinted with the Mexican flag. I was glad not to be able to hear any of the nonsense the Nazis spouted and if that makes me close-minded, so be it. I am glad that the five supporters who came to hear the brownshirts were in their protective cage and close enough to hear. The constitution does guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The local authorities put such a massive police presence on display that the small group of black clad anarchists who might have added a violent tone was held in check. Fine.
But there is a lot of subtext floating around for me about this. Civic leaders pleaded with the people to stay home, in order not to dignify the fascist assembly. Ignore them, the mayor said. Hope they will go away. I think it is much more effective to point them out, to make fun of them, to shame them; and maybe they won’t go away, but at least their numbers won’t increase, their role as laughable misfits will be obvious.
Another issue I have relates to the expropriation of the terms National Socialism and Fascism. These pansies couldn’t organize the local chamber of commerce, much less achieve an integration of national government with corporate industrial power. While the Bush administration colludes with Halliburton, Bechtel, and big oil… while the Republicans disband the citizen army and rely on professional reserves and mercenaries like Black Water… while the entire public infrastructure is scrapped and private enterprise takes over public education, trash hauling, water supplies, municipal power and light… while two generations’ carefully crafted social statutes are flushed down a toilet and replaced by private security guards protecting privileged classes while poverty spreads and disempowerment of the poor is institutionalized… while the biggest state budget items are for new prison construction and a bizarre proportion of poor, young black and latino males are incarcerated, IT JUST DOES NOT SEEM RIGHT FOR THESE LITTLE PUD PULLERS TO OWN THE NAME FASCIST. We know who the fascists are and it ain’t them. When the few dozen brownshirts left today in their rented school bus (“Adolf has left the building”), protected by a phalanx of riot cops and led by a group of mounted police, horses being more effective at breaking through pickets than men with billy clubs, it was as if they had never been there. But the memory of the huge red banner with the black swastika will be with me for a while.
I’m glad we so out numbered them and that we made fun of them and that many people screamed fuck-you over and over again and held rude signs aloft and generally disrespected them. I was glad to join the hundreds of people who raised an impudent digit when the brownshirts extended their arms in the Nazi salute. But there is a hidden irony here. Beth and I arrived late for our witness against hate. We had been at a board meeting planning programs for the fall. Earlier in the day about thirty activists had been sitting in a non-violent dialog training session. Any of these people could have taught the session, and they should have been walking that talk at the Capitol rather than preaching to the choir in the Meetinghouse. I believe they stayed off the street so as not to dignify the sick twists on parade with an audience, but by staying out of it they lost the opportunity to know that they were there, witnessing against hate, pushing back at something that is so horrible, malicious, and evil that it must be encountered whenever it appears.
Isthmus publishing has coverage here, featuring lots of links to blogs around town.