Neo-Nazi hate hits close to home

Winnipeg Free Press - - YOUR SAY -

T was ridicu­lous when U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sug­gested it, and it makes no more sense com­ing from a self-de­scribed pro­po­nent of “white power.”

Sim­ply put, those who pro­fess racist or neo-Nazi be­liefs, and oth­ers who sym­pa­thize with those at­ti­tudes, are not “good peo­ple.”

It doesn’t mat­ter if they be­lieve they are, or if they try to soften their im­age by adopt­ing side­long de­scrip­tions such as “alt-right,” or con­ceal their out­pour­ings of hate be­hind a per­verted defence of free-speech rights. A per­son who de­clares ha­tred for oth­ers based on race, re­li­gion or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion is, by def­i­ni­tion, a bad per­son.

In the wake of the deadly vi­o­lence that en­veloped the white-power demon­stra­tion in Char­lottesville, Va. (and the U.S. pres­i­dent’s sub­se­quent un­will­ing­ness to un­equiv­o­cally con­demn the neo-Nazi ag­i­ta­tors), some Man­i­to­bans might have been in­clined to feel sorry for our Amer­i­can neigh­bours while be­liev­ing these sorts of hate­group out­bursts don’t hap­pen here.

Un­til, that is, we were shown in no un­cer­tain terms that they do. A pair of ugly lo­cal in­ci­dents in­volv­ing self-pro­claimed “Nazis” have pro­vided a stark re­minder that this par­tic­u­lar brand of

Ihate and ig­no­rance is fes­ter­ing in the cities and towns of Man­i­toba, too. The first re­port in­volved the ver­bal as­sault of a Mus­lim teacher from Calgary who, while trav­el­ling near Seven Sis­ters Falls last month, asked a man for di­rec­tions and was the tar­get of racist in­sults and de­mands to “take your head towel off in this coun­try.”

The man de­scribed him­self as “a Nazi.”

In the sec­ond in­stance, res­i­dents of Point Dou­glas re­counted un­pro­voked racist threats di­rected to­ward them by a man whose home is adorned with a Con­fed­er­ate flag and Nazi sym­bols. Mem­bers of an Eritrean fam­ily have re­port­edly been sub­jected to N-word taunts and, on one oc­ca­sion, had to jump out of the way when the man drove his pickup truck at them as they walked down the side­walk.

Dur­ing a brief en­counter with a lo­cal me­dia out­let, the man de­scribed him­self as some­one who’s been “good lately” and is try­ing to be a bet­ter per­son.

“I don’t go out there and pro­mote hate,” he said. “I just live my life and I work, pay my bills. Yes, I’ve said racist things, but I’m not forc­ing my be­liefs on any­body.”

It re­quires a spe­cial brand of ab­ject stu­pid­ity to think forc­ing some­one to jump out of the path of your mov­ing truck doesn’t amount to im­pos­ing your be­liefs on them, but then again, ig­no­rant de­nial is a cu­ri­ous thing.

These in­ci­dents are a use­ful re­minder that racist ha­tred is not a Repub­li­can is­sue, or an Amer­i­can prob­lem. It’s a lamentably en­trenched as­pect of the hu­man con­di­tion, and it’s up to the rest of us to speak out against such ig­no­rance and stand up to the peo­ple who embody it. Canada strives to be an ac­cept­ing and tol­er­ant na­tion, and it’s those who feel the need to tell other Cana­di­ans to “go back to (their) own coun­try” who don’t be­long.

Thank­fully, other voices are be­ing heard. At Seven Sis­ters, passersby in­ter­vened in the tourist’s defence; in Point Dou­glas, lo­cal res­i­dents and ac­tivists have banded to­gether to con­demn the self-styled Nazi’s id­iocy. Hate­ful plans for a

Sept. 9 “anti-im­mi­gra­tion” rally in Win­nipeg have been coun­tered by the Win­nipeg Di­ver­sity Rally Against Hate on the same day.

We must speak out. It’s the job of all of us to re­mind pur­vey­ors of hate that the “free­dom of speech” they hide be­hind does not mean free­dom from con­se­quences.

EVELYN HOCKSTEIN / WASH­ING­TON POST

A Char­lottesville marcher with a Con­fed­er­ate flag.

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