by Joe Courter
I had this phrase as a bumper sticker years back, and while a parody of the anti-abortion slogan, I always come back to it in different situations. Most recently it came to me in regard to the First Amendment and the dilemma of the ACLU and UF when evaluating the free speech rights of the Nazis and racists who have emerged with the election of Trump.
Our community has been targeted by these new brand of racists because we are a progressive town that will put up a fight, which is what they want. I was told they are hoping to win “free speech” court cases as a financial strategy, much like that heinous Westboro Baptist Church, the folks who picket funerals of gay people and soldiers.
The violence and ugliness that went down in Charlottesville gave the University of Florida its reasoning to say no to this Spencer character, but now it is back up in the air. Two otherwise progressive local attorneys, Gary Edinger and Joe Little, are taking the absolutist Free Speech side, backing Spencer.
I doubt anything will be firm in three days when this issue of the Iguana is printed (I’m writing this Sept. 2), but Spencer’s people say they are coming on Sept. 12 regardless. I do know that much like what Carol Giardina said when we faced off with Nazis 27 years ago on the Downtown Plaza (and reprinted on page 1 in this issue), it is just wrong to not go out to show our opposition and just let these racists have a happy pleasant day.
Back then we had the UF student body president advocate for opposition over the wishes of the UF administration who want it to be ignored. Our NAACP head, Joseph Judge, spoke forcefully at the rally. We had 500 people to their 18, we were loud, strong and we were RIGHT to be out there.
If and when Spencer or his ilk show up here in Gainesville, I hope we can Boston them, overwhelming numbers out to loudly say “You’re Wrong, Go Home!” And as far as all the false equivalency going on regarding anti-fascist organizing, saying that Antifa – a far left political movement focusing on fighting far-right and white supremacy ideology – are terrorists; no. Antifa exists solely to face down racists and fascists – that is why they exist. That is their agenda. When the cops took a pass in Charlottesville, and let that sick torch march attack peaceful anti-racists, Antifa stepped in. I do not want violence; I would prefer better discipline and less testosterone, but please do not fall for the false equivalency narrative.
Two days before the initial good news from UF President Fuchs regarding Spencer, on August 14, Gainesville had a real victory in the resolution of the Confederate statue debate. Two years from when Faye Williams and a small group raised their voices and built a movement, the original party that put up the statue in 1904 raised the money, took it down and put it someplace else, reportedly a cemetery SE of town. Kudos to our County government and the citizens who kept the heat on. And it was citizens from within and outside of UF who helped sway UF to consider the Spencer visit an issue of public safety. Kudos to all who stepped up then, too. People showed up, spoke out, and it made a difference. It is what participatory democracy requires us to do. It is what being a civic minded citizen is about.
Back to fundamentalism. The rigid human mind is a waste of our naturally evolved intellect. It is also hugely problematic: be it for LGBT children growing up in unaccepting households, the knee-jerk dismissal of single payer healthcare, the anti-science dismissal of global warming, climate change and heck, even evolution itself, and perhaps most insidiously, the unconscious acceptance of cultural traditions based on lies as with racism, sexism or the current (and recurrent) fear mongering about immigrants.
We need to do better, to recognize and challenge our own unconscious fundamentalisms, and then organize and act to make the world better. It is why we put out this paper, and why I write these words. D