Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Taking Sides

My family was steeped in academia because my dad was a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Pittsburgh for his whole career. Very early in my life, we moved to South America for a position he took to help establish a school of electrical engineering at a university near Valparaiso, Chile. I was enrolled in an all-girls Catholic school there where I was one of only two white girls. At the tender age of six, I experienced racial prejudice from the receiving end. I was perplexed and hurt, as I had never witnessed racial prejudice first hand.

Once reestablished in the US, our whole family attended the university annual retreat for orientation of the incoming freshmen, of which my dad was a key organizer. Even as a young girl, I interacted with the college students from many countries. Our home was frequently host to international students. My whole family was at least bilingual, my older brother spoke at least three languages fluently and understood more. Our friends were of every race and ethnicity. This was the norm for me, this understanding that all peoples are equal and intrinsically valuable. To harbor hate or disdain towards another human being simply by reason of their culture or skin color was so foreign an idea that, after adopting our biracial child, I was floored at the visceral reaction of some folks.

We are a melting pot, a country populated by the influx of immigrants from many nations, drawn to the ideals of equality. The melding of multiple races is a difficult thing, but the richness of our culture lies in the good things brought to it by all of these immigrants. But we've forgotten this.

Recently, these cultures, which have woven so much beauty into the tapestry that we call the United States, have come under attack with none to come to their defense. We've become lazy and comfortable. As long as we have our favorite brand of beer and 258 channels of inane banter, we strive to avoid any conflict that might upset the balance and threaten our comfort. I confess, I'm guilty. I have always hated conflict of any kind, striving to please in order to stave off uncomfortable encounters. But for those in this country who have lived their entire lives in peace and with freedom, a wakeup call has ensued. It's time to take a side.

If you were listening at all, you could hear the murmurings among the thoughtful over recent months. "Surely this could never happen here the way it did in Germany." "We would never allow such a man to take control of our society, would we?" Yet, the thoughtful existed in Germany and were persuaded to agree or be silent.

Holocaust survivor Primo Levi writes:
"In spite of the varied possibilities for information, most Germans didn’t know because they didn’t want to know. Because, indeed, they wanted not to know. . . . In Hitler’s Germany a particular code was widespread: those who knew did not talk; those who did not know did not ask questions; those who did ask questions received no answers. In this way the typical German citizen won and defended his ignorance, which seemed to him sufficient justification of his adherence to Nazism. Shutting his mouth, his eyes and his ears, he built for himself the illusion of not knowing, hence not being an accomplice to the things taking place in front of his very door." (Levi, Survival and Reawakening, 381)
I suspect that as the immediacy of the Holocaust waned, many thoughtful people in Germany reviewed the events in their minds, wondering how such an atrocity could take place without their own realization of the danger. They were duped, led like lemmings to the cliff. Today, the pitter patter of little lemming feet marching toward the cliff sounds again.

Some have, and indeed will again, criticize the writers of this blog for being too political in a sailing blog. But what good will it do to have a sailing blog if we no longer have the freedom to write in it or, indeed, to even participate in the activity at all?  Will you build for yourself that illusion of not knowing, guilt laid at your door by passivity, or will you see this as the time to stand and take a side? I've chosen mine. I draw the line in the sand and I denounce hatred and bigotry and choose the side of love, inclusion and community. Will you join me?


Jeff Pfister said...

I'll be the first. I'm with you.

The Cynical Sailor said...

Great post, Deb. Of course, I'm with you.

Unknown said...

I am also with you!

I remember learning that the form of government in an area changes over time, following an often repeated cycle ... starting with anarchy, eventually will come dictatorship, from dictatorship will come military junta, from military junta comes democracy, and democracy eventually fails to anarchy. The US democracy is LONG overdue, based on this pattern in other areas. Events of, perhaps, the last 5 years and definitely the last year or two have me very concerned that we're moving closer to that end.

Will it happen? Time will tell, but, as good or bad as this next point may be, I think too many people know a change would be bad for business, bad for stocks, bad for our pensions, basically bad for capitalism in general, for us to fail. And, it would be very hard to do anything about it, so we deny, ignore, dismiss what we see in front of us, hoping for everything to pass by, not affecting us personally.

Well, I do see it and it does scare me and I want to do something about it. I'm not sure what's the best, most effective way to make a change, but I, most certainly, am in.

Robert Sapp said...

So you’ve chosen the side of love, inclusion and community, you say. So which side is that, Deb? I assume it’s not the side of the chuckleheads carrying swastikas and tiki torches marching around Civil War monuments. Is it the side of black clothed and masked hoodlums carrying baseball bats and using aerosol cans as flamethrowers to beat into silence those with whom they disagree? Is it the side of the communists who marched through the streets of Seattle smashing windows and burning cars during the recent G20 meeting held there? Is it the side of the “social justice warriors” who have rioted at numerous colleges and universities, destroying property and causing injury in order to silence invited speakers with whom they do not agree? (All in the name of diversity, ironically). Is it the side of Black Lives Matter and their call to murder policemen (with quite a bit of success) and who have basically destroyed the University of Missouri? Or are you just talking about taking the side of the political/media/entertainment complex that calls itself TheResistance, which is trying to actively undermine and overturn the results of a free and democratic election through the promulgation of fake conspiracy theories, illegal leaks of classified information, and elitist snobbery, in the process inspiring people to attempt to assassinate Congressmen playing baseball?

There was a comment I read once that I’ll paraphrase: When the Communists show up to fight the Nazis, you don’t choose a side, you pray for a meteor. Those who wish to control us do so by dividing us into various hyphenated-American categories and then pitting us against each other. The melting pot you so warmly describe unfortunately no longer exists. You can’t melt cultures into a common set of values that binds us together when identity politics is used to stoke grievances and play us off against one another in what we’re told is a zero sum game and where you’re accused of the crime of “cultural appropriation” for trying to embrace elements that others bring to the table.

I refuse to be manipulated in that way. The America I choose to live in is one where people treat each other with dignity and respect, accept that there are many ways to look at the world, and understand that people of good nature and intent can have differing views on a variety of issues but can still coexist in peace, without the need to take sides and beat those with whom they disagree into submission. Is that the side you were talking about?

Robert & Rhonda
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

Deb said...

@Robert –

"The America I choose to live in is one where people treat each other with dignity and respect, accept that there are many ways to look at the world, and understand that people of good nature and intent can have differing views on a variety of issues but can still coexist in peace, without the need to take sides and beat those with whom they disagree into submission. Is that the side you were talking about?"

One of the reasons that I appreciate your friendship is the fact that you are one of the few people I know who are able to interact in this way. Your commitment to respecting others who have differing views has certainly been tested in our relationship. Unfortunately, I don't believe that the America you choose to live in exists beyond your own small piece of it, and maybe that's exactly what I was saying. My commitment, my “side” if you will, is to treat those with whom I come in contact with love and respect. My responsibility is certainly within that circle, but does my responsibility end there?

Without getting into a whole debate on postmodernism and relativism (a subject for another long visit in the cockpit over sundowners), a line has been crossed for me. Murdering in hate is always wrong. This isn't a Left or Right thing, a Democrat or Republican thing, a black or white thing, a Communist or a Capitalist thing. It's a human being thing. And while I wish that we could all coexist in peace, you're right, the melting pot doesn't exist anymore. It's boiling over.

Unknown said...

Just pick a side: nazis or not-nazis. klan or not-klan. white supremacy or not-white supremacy. There isn't an up-side to any of these to warrant a civil discussion. The adherents of any of these are not people of good nature and intent. We had that discussion and two wars. It's done.

TJ said...

Robert, and whoever else might read this, please do so with the quietest possible voice in your inner ear. We are in that moment, that quiet place just before the storm breaks. In an American city, on a Saturday afternoon, while surrounded by police, a young women was murdered by a Nazi. The Nazi was not a lone wolf. He was one of hundreds of armed Nazis who had come into her town with the soul purpose of provoking violence. Yes, I know they and their supporters claim otherwise; what else would they say? But they wore body armor, carried torches and fire arms, shields and clubs, and the pictures of them are not of people peacefully demonstrating.

In nearly a whisper, let me say it again. In an American city, in the full light of day, a woman was murdered by a Nazi.

When hundreds of armed Nazis come to your town there are really only three choices. You can join them. You can stay at home and hope the violence occurs on someone else’s street. Or you can resist them, shout them down, block their march, and fight them if you must.

If you chose the first then there is nothing a rational human being has to say that will matter to you. There is no fate that you can suffer that is worse than what you deserve.

If you chose the second you are making the same choice that millions of Germans made in the early 1930s. Over 60 million people died as a result of that studied indifference. Did it matter if they regarded themselves as people of good conscience? Did it matter if they thought that opposition were also violent law-breakers of equal moral failure? No. Evil was afoot in the world. It could have been stopped. The German people could have stopped it. They chose not to.

The third is not an easy choice either. These are Nazis. Though some of them are just low rent, cowardly punks, that cannot be assumed for many, or even the most. These are people steeped in violence and hatred, thugs, street fighters…they really are the kind of people you don’t want to run into in a dark ally. They don’t care about debate or discussion, compromise and peaceful living side-by-side is not their goal.

One on one they are dangerous. Running in a pack they are lethal. Facing them down on their own turf, out in the streets where even the police can’t be trusted not to be complacent (if not downright supportive), where the rule of law really has been laid aside; it is not a place many people can force themselves to go. But that is were the Nazis go to intimidate, frighten, and oppress. It is where they went to take over Germany. And now they are on the streets of America.

It is where some of us are going to have to go to stop them.

No one can criticize you if you can’t make that trip. Violence is an ugly thing, even when it is necessary. It took the unimaginable violence of a world at war to bring the Nazis to heel the last time they got loose. There is no shame if you don’t have the courage, or the physical capability, or even the temperament to be on the front lines. I’m 62 years old, with hands that don’t work very well and legs that can’t carry me far. I can’t punch or swing a club, don’t know anything about explosives, and I haven’t fired a gun for as long as I can remember. But I will not criticize in any way those who are doing the fighting for me. Nor do I care what tactics they use.

Because they are fighting Nazis.

One would hope that the government of the US would take charge of that violence; use it carefully, fully vet it with the courts. The FBI should be hounding these organizations as the terrorists groups that they are. The Justice Department should be shredding their financial backing, imprisoning their leaders, confiscating everything they own, and hounding them back under the rocks where they belong. But that isn’t going to happen. And the reason it isn’t going to happen is that the President of the United States is one of them.

So it will be left to us. And we will all have to chose. One, two, or three.

TJ said...


Word out of Boston today is that that less than 100 Nazis showed up, along with hundreds of police, and tens of thousands of Americans protesting the Nazis. Apparently Nazis can count, slinking away with nary a bark, let alone a bit.

Deb thinks the Nazis caught everyone a bit off guard in Charlottesville, and that it isn't likely to happen again. They woke the giant, and the giant isn't afraid of them after all. I think she might be right, which is makes for a very happy day.

Robert Sapp said...

You could take all the self-proclaimed Nazis in the country, put them in one place, and they wouldn't be a large enough crowd to fill a modest sports stadium. In a country of over 300 million people, they wouldn't amount to a flyspeck on a wall. Certainly nothing I lose sleep over, compared to issues like Islamic radicalism. Meanwhile there's an old saying, the origin of which is in dispute, that goes: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." The first amendment wasn't created to protect popular speech, but rather the rights of those with unpopular views and opinions to be heard. As a person who once swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution even at the cost of my life, I think that even Nazis (and groups like BLM and communists and La Raza) deserve the right to rally and march, without having to fear being confronted by self-righteous mobs willing to beat them into silence. The views of Nazis will wither (have withered) in the court of public opinion. They haven't gained any traction in over 75 years, and they won't gain any significant following in the future. They don't concern me anywhere near as much as the willingness of people to adopt violence as a countermeasure. This tendency on the part of the left to say "words are violence, and therefore we are justified in using violence against words" is evil and must stop.

I'm old enough to remember that many believed Richard Nixon was a racist Nazi. Ronald Reagan was a racist Nazi. Bob Dole, George Bush Sr and Jr were racist Nazis. Mitt Romney was a racist Nazi. Now it's Donald Trump's turn. Sorry, but it just doesn't work anymore. Racist Nazis don't get 46 million votes, unless you really do believe that half of your fellow citizens are either blind fools or secret Nazis themselves. Is that your view?

Rhonda & Robert
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

TJ said...


I think that the people who still support Trump are going to support him no matter what he does or what he says, a number that is about 1 in four Americans. Had he openly claimed that there were good Nazis during the campaign, I doubt he would have garnered enough votes to carry the electoral collage; but that is water over the damn.

"Free Speech", does not include showing up in body armor and carrying assault rifles. And really, Nazis showing up to support racism (and wearing body armor and carry assault rifles) are "free speech-ing", those showing up to oppose them are a self-righteous mob? That seems a bit un-free-speech-y.

I do understand those who are "free speech" absolutists. I don't happen to be one of them. I am interested in true speech; insofar as free speech helps protect true speech, it is useful. When it is used to protect propaganda and hate, it is less useful. We have to be smart enough to figure out which is which and, if we are not, it isn't likely we can survive as a civilization.

Robert Sapp said...

I like the conclusion of this article:

If you're willing to throw out the constitutional protection of free speech for this notion of "true speech," (one of the most chilling, and dare I say it, Nazi-like things I've ever heard you say) then be ready for the fact that since you're choosing sides, your "side" may not always be the ones in charge who get to decide what's "true" and what type of speech is allowed.

Robert & Rhonda
S/V Eagle Too
Pensacola, FL

Unknown said...

Well, I can assure you that from my vantage point, while people willing to carry a nazi flag in public may currently be a small number, the number of people who implicitly support full-on white supremacy or a more subtle flavor dwarfs the number of Islamic terrorists in the US. Although I've traveled and lived internationally, when in the US (other than a few months for work purposes) I've lived in the South. Full-on racism is still just barely below the surface when not in full public flag-waving display and minimizing it by claiming it is just a few dozen hate mongers is disingenuous of anyone who has spent any time in the South.

In the US, the only protection for free speech is from the State. If you espouse views antithetical to the ideals and rights enumerated in the Declaration and Constitution (life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, etc.) and you get shouted down, it is not a violation of your right to free speech. The right protects you from state-sponsored censorship, not censorship by your fellow citizens. You may argue, "well, then, it is not truly free speech if you don't allow me to get my message out". That is a valid opinion, but it is not constitutionally guaranteed. And in my opinion, a pretty naive view of free speech (see The Paradox of Tolerance).

TJ said...

Robert, everyone is responsible for seeking the truth, marshaling that into understanding, and following it in the pursuit of wisdom. It is the only way that we have of fitting into our place in the constant evolution of the universe. If we don’t do that (by “we” I mean all of us as individuals) then we (as a species) will find that there is no place for us; and will be gone. We can make all the excuses we want; “I am not a scientist”, “The Bible says…”, “The ‘Free Market’ will take care of it”, “We can win a nuclear war,” it will not make any difference to the outcome. If we utterly fail to find truth, or refuse to act in concert with that truth when it is found, we will, (sooner rather than later) find ourselves utterly forgotten in a cosmos that does not care that we were terminally stupid, and couldn’t even agree that there were true things to be found.

“Free Speech” was supposed to be a way to help us in that endeavor, but the concept has been hi-jacked. Apparently some were surprised to find out that “free speech” meant that the rest of us were free to ignore the stupid, the fundamentalists, the white supremacist, and the Nazis. So they talked the government into letting them carry guns around, that way we couldn't ignore them any more. It worked. But Charlottesville turned out different than they thought. Come Boston and they were not allowed to carry guns. Outnumbered 50 or 100 to one, with no way to be a threat, they folded their tents and went home. Now, of course, they are back to bitching that no one will respect their “free speech” rights and pay them some respect, as if they deserve any.

Sadly, Trump’s government is on their side. Completely untouched by any care for the truth, Trump and his minions are ever more delusional, ever more isolated, and have only the threat of violence and oppression to make the rest of us pay any attention to them at all. Trump’s rhetoric is increasingly deranged, utterly devoid of any connection to the real world. That is, of course, just my opinion based on listening to his speeches and reading his Tweets. History will decide if my opinion, shared as it is by the majority of people in the country, (and the world) turns out to be the truth. If it turns out to be true, it is possible that history will also record that these were the last, dying days, of an empire that had abandoned any care for the truth, and so had run its course.

Much to the benefit of the rest of the world, and adding to the hope that human kind still has a future.

Robert Sapp said...

I have to admit that hearing a leftist speak of objective truth gives me quite a chuckle. I thought that in the liberal postmodernist view, all truth was relative. For example, if you’re a man who thinks you’re a woman, then you can run on the women’s track team; you can’t drill your way out of high gas prices; putting the government in control of the health insurance market will lower your costs by $2,500; signing a deal with North Korea and giving them a whole bunch of money will prevent them from ever developing nuclear weapons. Conservatives are normally the ones who support the notion of objective truth: your chromosomes don’t lie about your sex; the law of supply and demand means more drilling equals $2 a gallon gas; the government always makes everything more difficult and expensive; and gee look at all those nukes North Korea has now.

So let’s look at some hard truths. Islamic terrorism has killed between 4,000 and 5,000 Americans in the last 20 years, and hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. 40% of imprisoned violent felons are illegal aliens (ever heard of MS-13?). BLM has murdered over a dozen police officers in the last few years. TheResistance has attempted to murder Congressmen, and anarchists and fascists who ironically call themselves Antifa have caused millions of dollars in property damage. Twenty to 40 people a week are murdered in black-on-black violence in Chicago. But what are you worried about? Racist Nazis. Who have killed one person? That’s a tragedy, but that’s far fewer than Jared Loughner (who was a leftist, BTW). Remember him? Or James Hodgkinson? But I don’t see you taking any sides on those issues, I suppose because either you feel their despicable acts don’t reflect on all leftists and thus don’t deserve condemnation, or you actually support their violent actions as justified.

But the acts of James Fields obviously reflects on all Trump supporters. Because Nazis.

Some more truths: Nazis were socialists. It was the National Socialist Party after all. They implemented single payer healthcare, gun control (confiscation), strict government regulation of business, and were very pro-abortion (in support of their eugenics program). Does any of that sound like President Trump? Plus you do realize his daughter married a Jew and is now Jewish? How open minded of a Nazi, what with that Final Solution and all. Again, every Republican who has run for office in my lifetime has been portrayed as a Nazi and a racist. But most of the country now realizes that to a leftist, “Nazi” means anyone the left doesn’t agree with or has lost an argument to. It has absolutely nothing to do with actual Nazis. We can all see through it and it no longer works. About the only thing so called “white supremacists” have in common with Nazis is belief in racial superiority. But that doesn’t make them Nazis, any more than it makes La Raza Nazis. So I just tune out anyone who refers to President Trump as a Nazi, because it tells me that they are either incredibly ignorant, or so blinded by their ideology that they can’t see reality. It’s not hard to find things to dislike about President Trump. But he’s so totally not a Nazi that I laugh when I hear it.

My original point was that the act of “taking sides” means you’re playing right into the hands of those who wish to maintain their power and control by keeping us constantly riled up and pissed off at each other. You should be smart enough to know when you’re being manipulated. I choose not to play that game. But you go right ahead. I’ll still look forward to our next beer together.

This accurately sums up my view of the situation:

S/V Via Bella said...

Hi Deb, I'm getting caught up on reading your blog, and just read this one. It's an excellent piece of thinking and writing, and I'm definitely with you. Love, Nancy

TJ said...


I, too, am looking forward to our next beer together. When will you guys be on the move again? It looks like we will be here for a while yet; departure schedule on hold for the arrival of grand baby (10).

As a general rule I am way less concerned about people protesting for, and trying to defend, civil, human, women’s, and worker’s rights than I am about those who would seek to roll back those same rights. You paint BLM and Antifa with the same broad brush you accuse me of using on Republicans. I’ll be glad to hear when the Nazis and the KKK stop claiming that Mr. Trump supports their cause(s) but, seeing as he just pardoned Arpaio, you will understand if I don’t hold my breath. I watched Trump's news conference after Charlottesville and much of his performance at the AZ rally. His own words contradict what you claim for him.

It is true I don’t share your enthusiasm for capitalism nor your love of corporations. Those are exactly the people who cling to power by keeping us ill-informed and pissed off at each other. My distain for our current government isn’t based on any hatred of government in general, but in the fact that this government has been completely compromised by the capitalists and the corporations. Mr. Trump is the poster child for that money grubbing junta. Though even the capitalists have had to pull away from his support for white nationalism; as have a few Republicans and even members of his own cabinet.

Single payer works everywhere else in the first world. The US system sucks because its purpose is to make a profit, not to make people better. American corporations make money off of prisoners, which is why 25% of all the prisoners on the planet are jailed in the US. You worship capitalism as if it is some kind of religion. I don’t. It has its uses, but it isn’t the answer to everything. It isn’t even the answer to most things.

Anyway, I’ll let you have the last word if you like. Hope to see you soon since I do know one thing for sure; eventually this summer will end and the islands will still be sitting off the east coast.

Robert Sapp said...

I think you know by now that I always let you have the last word since this is your blog. In response to your question, our plans are to head back down to St Petersburg in early November. We'll be there through the holidays, and then we're planning to head back over to the Bahamas in January. Unless the Seahawks make a deep playoff run, in which case it might be early February!