“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference …. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.” — Elie Wiesel, political activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor
Samantha Bloom of Maumee, Ohio, seemed to be especially perplexed over the weekend when reporters came to her house to talk to her about her son, James Alex Fields, 20, who had just been arrested after plowing his car into a crowd of protesters, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring at least 19 other people. Bloom, who was unaware of his arrest, said she thought her son was going to a rally about Trump, but pled ignorance and admitted certain indifference about the details.
“I try to stay out of his political views. We don’t — I don’t really get too involved,” Bloom said. “I don’t really talk to him about his political views. So I don’t really understand what the rally was about.”
His classmates at Randall K. Cooper High School, however, were all too aware of Fields and his ominous outlook, coining him “the Nazi of the school,” also the headline of a recent VICE article on Fields. The story quotes several students, one of whom admitting a feeling of helplessness when it came to seeking help from the school administration to address Field’s behavior and hate speech.
“A big issue was the school itself,” a former classmate said. “Because if anyone made a complaint, the administration would say, ‘We’ve taken note of this’ or ‘We will get this solved.’ But everything would be brushed off, just in general. Whether it was bullying, racist comments or anything else.”
In Fargo, North Dakota, there are certain consequences brewing for another Charlottesville Unite the Right rally member, Peter Tefft. Tefft’s family is publicly distancing themselves and denouncing Peter altogether. Peter’s nephew, Jacob, issued a statement, which included the following: “Peter is a maniac, who has turned away from all of us and gone down some insane Internet rabbit-hole, and turned into a crazy Nazi. He scares us all, we don’t feel safe around him, and we don’t know how he came to be this way.”
Meanwhile, in Ventura County, there is a certain peacefulness that seems to have put us all in a quiet lull about this issue of hatemongering, but we are not immune to it. In fact, on Monday, a video went viral on Twitter with the hashtag #StopRacism showing four teenagers rapping and shouting the N-word in a car; the Conejo Valley Unified School District confirmed that two of the four teens are students. In February, a Conejo Valley park was defaced with swastikas along with anti-Semitic notes left on doorsteps and mailboxes in nearby neighborhoods. If any of us have somehow convinced ourselves that because there is no violence, there is no problem, then we are fools and are culpable when the hate speech rises to its ultimate goal of violence and worse. And it is ridiculous to think that our freedom of speech protections should somehow quell irrational, sometimes vicious responses by those who are the intended targets of the hate.
In the end, it all boils down to tolerance, indifference and lack of education; indifference has been especially prevalent during presidential elections as roughly 45 percent of registered voters routinely opt not to participate. But this inaction leads tremendous civil issues. When we avoid conflict for comfort; when we say nothing when we hear something wrong, belittling, dehumanizing; when we allow symbolic statues of detestable ideologies to remain in a state of respect, we have justified and enabled the hate to exist. But for those who are disturbed by the rhetoric, videos and pictures, stop being complacent. We must say something, we must confront and have civil discourse to find the root of this hate (which seems to be associated with insecurity over relevancy and certain diminishing privilege) and eventually to stamp it out through understanding. In doing so, we must follow the path of least suffering to combat the nastiness our country is now engulfed in.