If your first reaction to white supremacy or Nazism is to point at what someone else did or said, you’re heading in the wrong direction.

This isn’t a game of equivalencies. Pitting an event such as the racially motivated assassination of five Dallas police officers against the hate-filled vehicular homicide in Charlottesville, Virginia, doesn’t make sense unless we’re trying to excuse behavior in the latter. We mustn’t allow anything to justify, rationalize or mitigate the murderous actions of neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Americans have successfully rejected extreme political ideologies in the past, and we must do so again.

Nazism led to one of the greatest genocides humanity has ever witnessed. The very same ideas demonstrated by the Unite the Right gathering led to the deaths of millions upon millions of innocent men, women and children.

For some reason we’ve bought into the idea that communism is on the far left end of the political spectrum, and fascism is on the opposite end. That makes it easier to play such a dangerous balancing game with bad actors on both “sides.”

Think up the most extreme kind of leftist wrongdoing. Let’s imagine communists are rounding up Christian small-business owners and executing them to confiscate their property for the benefit of the state.

That’s a ghastly scenario. Would it justify Nazism as a response? Absolutely not.

Any rationalization of the Unite the Right rally, or any event like it, is at least as dangerous as the public violence perpetrated.

It’s easy to speak out against jack-booted thugs carrying tiki torches, shouting vile chants and willing to kill. We tell ourselves that we aren’t like them—that we wouldn’t do that. History suggests that we could be and we might.

Fear drives these horrific ideas. We’re afraid that someone will take our job, steal from us, harm our families or live the high life at our expense. When we’re afraid, we sacrifice our liberties at the altar of the strongest voice offering to protect some idealized way of life. At that point, we give away our birthright for a proverbial bowl of soup.

When we make that choice, even the most sophisticated and well-meaning people have the capacity to do unspeakable things or silently watch them happen.

At times like these, we must double down on our liberties against every temptation to surrender them. Protect freedoms of speech, press and religion even when it’s extremely hard. Enforce the law without favoritism. Strengthen our civic institutions of family, church and state that have stabilized us and enabled our nation to thrive even in their imperfections.

We’re living in a time for choosing that’s far more significant than Democrat and Republican, black and white, rich and poor. This generation must again define what it means to be American. The question isn’t whether we will fight and struggle. It’s whether we will do so in defense of liberty or against it.

Image by jorisvo

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