(Author’s Note: Lyrics credit to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” for the headline of this piece. All photography by the author and taken inside of the video game No Man’s Sky by Hello Games.)
My roommate isn’t home.
Joe Manchin is in Morgantown, and my roommate is at the townhall. I wish I was there. I want to let West Virginia’s nominally Democratic Senator know how I feel about him selling my home state out to Big Coal. How angry I am that he’s the latest in a long line of West Virginia politicians exploiting the bigotry and hatred that still infest Appalachia to line carpetbaggers’ pockets. But I’m not like my roommate. I’m not downtown giving Joe hell.
I’m at home.
Yesterday, I woke up to find that my Twitter feed had been inundated with anti-Semitic threats. People using anonymous handles referencing 20th century as well as contemporary neo-Nazi culture flooded my mentions. They let me know that I was being explicitly targeted because I was a Jew. They let me know that I was being explicitly targeted because I spoke out against white supremacist hate speech. Which is all to say, they let me know I was being targeted because I was willing to defend myself and and to mobilize others that were willing to do the same.
I’m going to include the most upsetting of the comments as an image below this sentence. I am warning you ahead of time about anti-semitic hate speech being included in this post.
[Author’s Note: Once again, I’m sharing something that I originally posted on social media. This is a very brief statement on why more Americans need to be concerned that our government has officially ended its fight against white supremacist/white nationalist terror groups. Only the Antifas can save us.]
A thing we aren’t talking enough about right now is the fact that yesterday our new President removed white supremacist hate groups from the purview of domestic counter-terror surveillance programs. The federal government is giving actual Nazis free reign to commit terror on American soil.
[Author’s Note: For the second time this week, I’m publishing a post that is a formal response to a comment that someone left on my Facebook wall. I believe these sort of micro-scale interactions with others are a necessary step moving forward in the fight against fascism, and I’m going to include the comment that this person left so that you, the reader, can understand the brief argument I give for why violence — carefully considered and escalated rationally — is justified against actual Nazis. More of us should be punching Nazis.]
There are two great myths of World War II. The first says that there was something intrinsic to the national characters of Germany and Italy, a flaw that made them uniquely susceptible to the destructive id of fascism. The second myth evangelizes the existence of a unified, democratic resistance to fascism even amongst the nations occupied by the Nazis.
Marcel Ophüls’ 1969 documentary, The Sorrow and the Pity, demolishes both myths and, in the process, serves as a harrowing reminder of the ease with which liberty and human prosperity can fall when they aren’t safeguarded through constant vigilance. Few historical documents of the 20th century offer as intimate a peek into the constant struggle to identify, combat, organize against, and educate others about political oppression.
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
There’s nothing magical that holds American democracy together.
I think that’s something that we take for granted. American democracy works — in the flawed, half-broken sense that it’s ever worked — because competing functions of our civil society implicitly agree to respect the constitutionally described powers of the other branches of our government while also respecting the enumerated limitations of their own branch.
This is basic civics. We have a government with three branches. The executive, legislative, and judicial. Each branch has certain powers that can be reduced (perhaps perilously) simply: the legislative branch decides what the laws are, the executive branch is tasked with enforcing/enacting these laws, and the judicial branch is tasked with interpreting these laws. Each branch has ways of keeping the other branches in check. It was one of the most carefully deliberated design elements of the Constitution. The legislative branch can impeach the executive branch and judicial branch. They have confirmation powers for many of the people appointed to either of those branches. The executive can veto legislative decisions. They appoint the judiciary. The judiciary can decide if the laws or actions of the other two branches are unconstitutional. And if these laws are unconstitutional, it’s the purview of the judiciary to tell the other branches of the government that they have to change their behavior.
(Author’s Note: I originally posted these thoughts as a series of tweets. I’m posting them here for people who don’t follow me on Twitter or who want these thoughts in a more readable format.)
If anybody needs an explanation for what happened this week, watch Marcel Ophuls’ ‘The Sorrow & the Pity.’ It’s a documentary from the 1960s that decimates the enduring myth of the united French resistance to fascism during the Occupation.
The above photograph is from June of 2011, and it’s a picture of me and my sister at our dad’s place back home in Philippi. I was 22 — I know; it’s hard to believe I’m not a 12 year old in that picture — and my sister was a couple months shy of her first semester of college. This blog was only 3 months old. A lot has happened since then, and I’ll get into all of the opportunities this blog has afforded me in due course, but the biggest change to my life since that photograph was taken is that I can call myself — devoid of any hint of irony or self-effacing humor — a professional writer. This blog saved my life, and I owe the world to any readers who have supported my work over these years. You all have kept me going, and that’s not an exaggeration.
I started this blog on February 7th of 2011. That was the spring semester of what should have been my senior and final year of college at West Virginia University. But I’d spent the two semesters prior to that wandering through a depressed haze. And I don’t mean I was simply sad. I was suffering from depression. I had devolved from being one of the top students in the political science department at WVU — I’d won a major departmental scholarship my freshman year that students at every year level could compete for — to a lost young man quickly entering his mid-20s with no anchor tying his world together.