Heresy has been described as not so much a lie, but more as a perversion or inversion of the truth. False ideologies operate like viruses, in that they rely on truth as a host; it is the only way they can be promulgated. In events of this summer, we have seen the insidious way this operates.
Racial ideology has long roots in American society, and even longer in European society. Europeans, finding themselves in the moral thickets of slavery and genocide, needed to find a convenient way to explain away not only their atrocities, but their dominant place in society. The disintegration of Christendom, after the reformation and the increased interaction with other cultures, required a new unifying myth: Whiteness. Embryonic anthropology used all kinds of pseudoscientific distinctions to explain why whites were biologically superior.
Of course we now know- most of us anyway- that those theories are bunk. There is more genetic variation within races than between them, and race is biologically meaningless. The heresy of white supremacy became so culturally ingrained that society structured itself on protecting it. While the overt forms of the past have become socially unacceptable, it has morphed into more subtle and insidious modes. Those angry young men in Charlottesville, VA, including the one who rammed his car into counter protesters, were grieving their dying heresy. While most of us are able to condemn explicit racism, it now hides in the folds and weaknesses of mainstream politics. That is what Trump is echoing when he says there were “Very fine people,” on both sides. Very fine people apparently thought it prudent to align themselves with Neo-Nazis. I find this dubious. When evil occurs, we must condemn it by name, and not appeal to a milquetoast, wobbly sense of neutrality. The truth exists on its own, not as a fictional middle ground between opposing forces. We must defend truth not in accord with partisan sensibilities, but despite them.
People have used these events to not only condemn white supremacists, but also the activist to the far left such as Antifa. Note I am not a leftist, and the political violence Antifa has engaged in is not above criticism. The political left, for all of its posturing against the far right, is not above criticism, and certainly does have destructive elements. But in Charlottesville, we have to recognize the aggressor. We cannot draw a false moral equivalence between fascism and anti-fascism. If political alliances are what is keeping us from condemning Nazism, let us revisit World War II and the years leading up to it. It emerged out of a very particular historical moment, disillusioned with the failures of liberal democracy, and based in something more trascendent than economic collectivism. We are at a similar moment, but we must recognize this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Race is nothing but an idol, one that demands a bloody sacrifice. Communists, socialists, liberals, monarchists, conservatives, even other fascists recognized the unique evil of Nazi racial invective. If all of these groups can call evil by its name, surely we can, too.