As protestors clashed with white supremacists and neo-Nazis in downtown Charlottesville, Va. during Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally, one thing became evidently clear: there is a growing contingent of Americans who aim to demonstrate that this country is not a safe harbor for hatred and bigotry.
“What the alt-right, Nazis and KKK are doing to our country is an absolute disgrace to basic American values,” said Kimberly Ashton, who drove 3 hours to protest. “We’ve taken a dark turn since the election; those who discriminate against others on the basis of race, class, gender and religion have become emboldened in their beliefs.”
While white supremacists attending the rally were met with resistance by progressive activists, many from the opposition shied away from outright condemnation of the march, arguing the importance of finding opportunities to pursue shared values.
“As we witness downright bigotry displayed toward minorities in this country, we must not forget those who face oppression abroad,” Ashton said. “For instance, Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians, so those racists do make a decent point about Jews.”
While activists such as Ashton and others repudiated the overall theme of the rally, white nationalists chanting anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans including “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” weren’t enough to draw outright disapproval.
University of Virginia graduate student Peter Hanover expressed extreme contempt for the “Unite the Right” march, but stressed how intersectionality can advance social causes.
“Yes, it is true that the ideology of those marching is extremely problematic,” Hanover said. “At the same time, so is Zionism. Progressives stand united against those who seek to discriminate against any minority group, yet we cannot shy away from attempts to find common ground. At least Hitler was an environmentalist.”
Ashton and Hanover held firm to their beliefs even when recited the definition of Zionism, that is the establishment and development of a homeland for Jews, free from oppression and hatred, much like that which was demonstrated by neo-Nazis over the weekend.
While it may seem shocking that some opposed to the neo-Nazi rally could hold even remotely similar views to the marchers themselves, it has actually become more par-for-the-course in recent months. In June, Jewish lesbian marchers were kicked out of the progressive Chicago Dyke March for carrying LGBTQ pride flags stitched with the Jewish Star of David, the most recognizable Jewish symbol today.
Dyke March organizers, who tout their commitment to representing minority communities and the historically oppressed, doubled down on their decision to ask Jewish demonstrators to leave tweeting that “Zio tears replenish my electrolytes.”
By the end of the day, one more thing became evidently clear: despite having deep ideological divisions, we can always find a place of mutual agreement.
Max Rosenblum is a comedian and writer based out of Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @mrmaxrose.