One of the unplanned things DP and I did this weekend was go to the neo-Nazi rally on the Capitol steps in Lansing. DP being a journalist, she wanted to check out the action. Me, I was a bit nervous, in light of the riots in Toledo a few weeks ago after a similar rally.
But we went—well, I dropped her off a few blocks away (as close as police barricades would let me get). She checked it out and came back to meet me (I circled the perimeter, checking out the police cars blocking access to the Capitol, remembering just how darn many one-way streets there are).
I have to hand it to the city of Lansing. They allowed the neo-Nazis to speak (freedom of speech), but the city also had a Diversity festival at a local high school, and set aside lots of space for the counter-rally. There was also space for the supporters of the neo-Nazis, but there weren’t many of them. The police were out in force, but mostly for crowd control and observation. The counter-rally folks (the anti-Nazis) did get out of hand at one point, knocking down the fence separating them from the “safe zone” between the other groups and the Capitol steps, but on the whole, things were peaceful. I think the papers said there were 16 arrests, mostly for not obeying police orders.
A group of university students chanted so loudly the neo-Nazis couldn’t be heard. Many people had signs saying things like, “No Racism in Michigan;” and “Nazis go home.” Rainbows abounded. The young people DP talked to (and also the ones interviewed on the local news) said that the neo-Nazis were (I quote) “messed up.”
A Lutheran church held an interfaith prayer vigil at the same time as the rally.
My favourite event, though, was the group that came up after the rally was over and washed the Capitol steps. With simple water and sponges and mops, this group of men, women and children cleaned away the hatred and racism, the words of fear and death and hate and anger. Powerful, powerful symbolism.
Racism, homophobia, sexism, prejudice of any kinds—these have always provoked a visceral response from me. On the one hand, it feels so wrong—to every fibre of me, my heart, my brain, my spirit. I can hardly breathe, it feels so alien to me.
And at the same time, I know that these people, too, are children of God. That’s the hard part for me. I can pray for them in a disembodied sense—“those who do not know the loving kindness of your mercy and truth’’—but when I see them in the flesh or photos, or read their words online or in the paper, my response is anger and a denial of their common humanity, because they truly do not seem human in their unreasonable hatred of others.
This is my challenge—to continue to fight against the hatred, and racism and heterosexism and sexism and all the other evil they put out, without ever losing sight of the fact that, much as I may not want to admit it or have anything to do with it, they are my brothers and sisters. I have no idea how to maintain such a balancing act and many days I don’t want to do it. I know I should, but I just don’t wanna. It’s much easier and more satisfying, in the short run, to hate them right back. But it doesn’t get us anywhere. Trading anger and spite and detestation is fruitless. Who said “An eye for an eye results in a nation of blind men?”
Besides, I know that on my worst days I'm no better than they are--after all, I hate their lies as much as they seem to hate me and what I perceive as truth.
I’m not sure where this leaves me. A human being, I guess, striving to be the best person I can, seeing my faults and knowing that I will never ever be as Christ-like as I would like to be (“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”), but doing my best every day, succeeding some days more than other, but always working at it. God being my helper, I’m working at it.