Reflections on a childhood amongst the proto-alt-right. (~550 words.)
One time in middle school, an Ohio Nazi wanted to kick my ass because I called him “scum” for having Hitler quotes in his AOL Instant Messenger profile. He proceeded to tell me that his branch of Neo-Nazism only hated black folks, not Jews.
Looking back, I really regret not fighting him. Even with all the rumors about his steroid use, I’d like to the think the holy light of Nazi punching would’ve guided my hand true.
Ohio’s a weird and dark place, and it’s chock full of bigots. I’m lucky that the folks I still know from my home state seem to be a universally lovely lot, but it’s hard to forget 16-year-old skinheads following you around the mall. (Sidenote: if you search “River Valley Mall Lancaster, Ohio”, one of the first hits is this video of teenagers seig heiling there.)
It’s hard to forget the brothers with the confederate flag on their truck telling me to stop sucking dick. It’s hard to forget the 8th grade teacher who looked directly at me and the mixed-race girl when she said some people wouldn’t have survived the Holocaust. It’s hard to forget the teenage boy who told me he was “God” on the Internet while he bragged to my friends about his plans to sneak into my room at night and kill me.
Looking back, I think the thread that unites all these experiences for me was a poisonous cocktail of anger, fear, and futility. I would try to out-argue folks, out-smart them, and then always end up talking my way out of fights when it seemed like punches were going to get thrown.
That was the reality when you’re in a world where there are more Confederate flags at school than people of color, where the same people who use the n-word as an insult don’t see the irony in quoting Dave Chapelle skits word-for-word in the cafeteria.
Hatred–the kind of hatred that’s been in the air for the entirety of American history and that spilled into the streets this weekend–will continue to find a home in the hearts of people too blinded by their own sense of entitlement to see other people as fellow human beings.
I’m as tempted as the next person to think that Nazis–the 20th century’s stand-in for cookie cutter villainy–would be universally lambasted after this weekend. And they have, in my online circles, which I’ve done my best to craft and curate with people who I admire and trust and respect.
But, as usual, posts from some of you make it clear that your timelines aren’t as universally condemning of people so blinded by ignorance and hatred, whose very foundational principles are grounded in the cement of genocide.
I know it’s easy to feel angry, afraid, or futile at times like these. That’s why I’m not in Baltimore, Ohio, anymore. Honestly, I haven’t checked in on the white supremacist scene there in quite some time and I did my best to get off their radar.
Running away did a lot for me. But only because I had somewhere better to run. If they really had their way, I know a lot of us would have nowhere to go. But I guess what’s why I regret never punching Nazis as a kid. Probably would’ve been good practice.
(And, now, some Baltimore-related comic relief.)