This past week, the United States has experienced a horrific series of civil rights violations: the Boston Marathon bombing, followed by the lockdown of the entire city under martial law (during which several civilian homes were burst into with military might, in SWAT raids searching for one of the suspects, both of whom were considered armed and highly dangerous), and the passing of a bill (CISPA, or Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act) that allows the United States government to monitor traffic on the internet at its whim and fancy. And that’s not just American citizen’s internet traffic — that includes monitoring of non-Americans accessing US websites too. Canadian civil liberties organizations have asserted that this is very likely to result in further violations of Canadian citizens’ civil liberties as a result (e.g., extradition to the states for alleged “cyber crimes” against the US government).
Also this past week, I observed someone on my Facebook comparing the Boston SWAT raids to the Nazi invasion of Poland and rounding up of Jews at gunpoint. And to my utter shock, not one but two philosophy dudebros came along to defend this individual, on the basis that they think my emotions have clouded my ability to think critically about this outrageously offensive comparison (which directly equates Jews to terrorists, no matter which way you attempt to slice that). This post is going to get personal.
Concern troll warning: Take your “reverse sexism” claims right now and stuff them where the sun doesn’t shine—unless you’re homophobic, in which case, get ready to chew and swallow. If I could literally force-feed it to you, I most certainly would not hesitate.
I’m going to make a full disclosure right now. I am part Jewish. Like the two bombing suspects, I am also part Caucasian. I am even part Polish. That’s all just one side of my family. On the other side of my family, I am part Danish and part English, and my Danish grandfather was just a teenager during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. I am deeply suspicious that he was also a Nazi sympathizer, as there are several things he has said and done, and several things going on in that side of my family, that simply do not add up otherwise. These parts of my identity are all the reasons why I’m typing in English, sitting in an apartment on the west coast of Canada (where I maintain zero contact with my blood family), instead of learning to speak my ancestral tongues while I learn about the land I am connected to by blood.
To suggest that I get emotional about people co-opting the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust (during which, I will remind you, ten million people were murdered) as if to extract the emotional gravity of this part of world history—my history… tens of millions of peoples’ histories—and heap it on top of an already heinous abuse of power as the United States has seen this past week, is to have already grossly understated what I feel when I see this taking place. But to suggest that because I feel such strong emotions, I therefore am unable to think clearly about it, is just fucking ignorant. It is because I can feel all of that emotion that I am more able to think critically about what is happening here.
I am now going to introduce a metaphor for what I think must be going on in the minds of people who actually think that any free speech argument they can muster is in any way a legitimate defence for having radically decontextualized the fucking Nazi Holocaust of all the fucking things in world history. These people—especially the dudebros who voluntarily came to the initial offender’s defence, despite not being prompted to at all by anyone—are Numb Nuts©. They are being repeatedly kicked in the balls, yet are somehow completely desensitized to it, and appear perplexed by anyone who isn’t equally desensitized. (Though I’m confident very few women will fully comprehend this paradox, I can assure you from direct personal experience that being kicked directly in the clitoris is exactly the same scale and magnitude of pain as being kicked in the balls.) They observe someone clutching their pelvis whilst curled up in the fetal position on the ground, trying not to throw up, and shouting “Why the fuck would you do that?!” when they can finally breathe again after the first couple of minutes. Numb Nuts© continue to observe the victim as the pain spreads over their entire body and the urge to vomit slowly creeps up from just below their navel all the way into their throat, tears forming in their eyes and spreading across their reddened face. But rather than, say, demand an end to testicle-kicking everywhere, Numb Nuts© tell this heaving person who is clearly in pain and in need of assistance that if they would just stop feeling it, they could have a rational discussion with them about how their experience of being kicked in the balls really isn’t as bad as they think it is. “I mean, look at me!” they’d say. “I could be getting kicked in the balls right now, and you don’t see me getting all emotional about it!”
This is precisely the problem of philosophy dudebros and their disingenuous attempts to “debate” abortion politics, but truly, only a complete fucking Numb Nuts© could minimize the Nazi Holocaust to defend someone who had already decontextualized it. Maybe they had a point in there, somewhere, about civil liberties. I can’t fucking tell, and I wouldn’t want to have that conversation with them anyway. Not after they’ve just finished defending a comparison as offensive (to literally anyone currently living on the planet) as the Boston lockdown to the invasion of Poland and rounding up of Jews by Nazis.
Maybe these idiots have somehow “forgotten” about these events in world history. Only, they’d also have to live under a fucking mountain to be equally ignorant of the conflict in Gaza, the current renewal of the American Indian Movement of the 60s and 70s that recently gained global attention as Idle No More, the treatment of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians on the west coast during WWII (i.e., being raided at gunpoint, forced internment, and often enslavement as well), and innumerable other conflicts that continue to re-shape and re-structure our world. I suggest everyone reading this post also take a moment to read this article on Huffington Post from George Takei about his experiences in a Japanese internment camp, and this article on Al Jazeera on the instant clamouring in mass media to appoint blame for the Boston Marathon bombing on the suspects’ ethnicities alone.
Civil liberties violations should make us feel angry. Human rights violations should make us feel several times more outraged. That enough people are so desensitized to both that even as I limited my social media engagements as much as possible this past week, I was exposed to three separate people who were all trying to shield themselves from criticism, for either perpetrating or defending a grossly inappropriate and offensive comparison between Jews and terrorists (while mass media was promoting the same principle mindset as much as possible across the United States, and the government was passing a bill into law that radically undermines civil liberties — potentially worldwide), should make anyone angry enough to take to the streets in protest over it. That people of the exact same desensitized mental state show up, without fail, at protests of all kinds and try to bait people into endless meaningless debates, as some sort of misguided “tactic” is yet another sign of how prevalent this desensitization to violence really is. You know. In case you didnt already have enough evidence from the moment you realized even a rudimentary grasp of the concept of oppression.
As a society, we have a collective responsibility to keep our social conscience accurately informed by our histories. When we fail to maintain this responsibility, we can be terrorized by the governments that are in place to serve us into being complicit with anything, even though we know that the majority is not held by those in power over us. Those in power know this, maintain society’s collective ignorance of this fact (e.g., mass media corporations in Canada are legally obligated to not express dissent against the Canadian government), and then exploit that collective ignorance to keep us distracted while our remaining liberties are rapidly being chipped away. As is stated in this film (demanding a militant resistance movement in defence of the rights of indigenous peoples—and by extension, everyone else on the continent—to a future for their children), at every phase of the Nazi Holocaust, it was in the Jews’ rational self-interest to comply, even as they were being marched to their deaths into the gas chambers. Meaningful dissent and active resistance are our most important day-to-day decisions.
Numb Nuts© and philosophy dudebros alike seem to have “forgotten” that too. If we want to raise consciousness about what’s recently happened in Boston, and incite people to take meaningful action against an increasingly tyrannical government under which corporations have greater liberty than the nation’s own citizens and corpses have more rights than pregnant women, comparing Boston to the Nazi Holocaust isn’t going to do it. And telling people to just stop feeling that testicle-kicking because it’s somehow “clouding their judgement” isn’t going to work either.
Learn about and always remember where you come from. Acknowledge daily all that it has cost for you to get here. Then do something about it when you recognize that history is beginning to repeat itself. Educate people. Protest. Lobby if you even think it’s possible to have a voice under a government that allowed hundreds of corporations to gain legal personhood under a law that was written to protect Black people from the abuses of slavery. Just don’t fucking sit down and give up trying to fight it. And don’t dare try to convince other people to be just as complacent, or before you know it, those in power over you will find your threshold (loose though it may be) and violate that too.
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