I sometimes ask myself what I would have done if I’d been living in Germany in the 1930’s. Oh, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been a Nazi. And I’m pretty sure that I would have done plenty of sneering at and about them. Until they came to power, that is.
Then, what would I have done? Probably kept my mouth shut in public and spoken only to those I trusted 100%. I suspect I would have had many sleepless nights. I suspect I would even have prayed.
Would I have been Sophie Scholl, the university student who was beheaded for her anti-Nazi activism in 1943? Probably been too scared.
Would I have helped a Jewish friend? Probably given money to help them flee the country; probably not hidden them in my home.
Thankfully, we don’t live in Nazi Germany, and comparisons between the 21st century United States and post-WWI Germany are pretty thin. But one lesson we can take is just how fragile countries can be. Germany was prosperous, cultured, “liberal.” And then…Things can and do happen fast.
But if you’re a well-off white person, living in a safe area, things aren’t all that scary, even in our present not especially pleasant times.
Still, when I started hearing about the “Free Speech” rally that was taking place pretty much right in my front yard on Saturday, and that the organizer had invited some alt-righties, it was pretty clear that I couldn’t just sit in my house watching HG-TV and eating bonbons.
It became confusing fast about who was actually going to be speaking. Was the nincompoop who did all the Pizzagate “work” for Alex Jones going to be given a microphone? Remember Pizzagate? Hillary and her pals running a pedophile ring out of the basement of a DC pizza parlor? That Pizzagate?
How about the numbskull Holocaust denier? The one – well, there may have been more than one – who spoke at the Charlottesville rally? One of the “nice people” who attended that event? You know, the one where a lot of innocent folks carried tiki torches while chanting “Blood and Soil,” and “Jews will not replace us”? Was he invited? Uninvited? Decided not to come?
I couldn’t imagine that Boston would turn into Charlottesville, but I sure didn’t want a bunch of neo-Nazis and Klansmen tramping around my neighborhood. Talk about ‘get off my lawn!’
But there was Charlottesville, and that straight out of Leni Riefenstahl (but at blessedly lesser scale) torch light rally. And those Klan salutes. And Heather Heyer. All playing over and over again in my mind.
So I checked out what was on offer for a counter-protest.
There was some gathering at the State House, which would have been easy-peasy. Five minutes up the hill and I’m there. But it sounded a bit “off” to me. One of the sponsoring group was demanding that end to sanctions on North Korea. Say wha’? It just looked like the kind of scene that might attract an anti-fa element. No thanks.
Meanwhile, there was a march, starting in Roxbury, sponsored by Black Lives Matter and a whole lot of clergy. I’d participated in a BLM march a few years back, and it was well-organized, heartfelt, well-run. A walk out to the starting point at the Reggie Lewis Center. The walk back into Boston Common. Why, I’d even get my Fitbit steps in!
It took me a while to decide on what hat to wear.
I have the Red Sox cap with the 1950’s logo. But – ugh – that was the logo when the racist Tom Yawkey was the own of my beloved olde towne team. I love the cap, but an anti-racism march didn’t seem like quite like the venue.
I considered my Red Sox cap with the kelly-green B and the shamrock, which I wear to show the world that not all shamrock-wearing Bostonians are punks.
And then I remembered the cap I bought for Fourth of July. The one I wear to show the world that liberals are patriotic, too. I’m not much of a selfie taker, but this is me, right before the march was about to start:
The sign in back of me shows the Obama post-Charlottesville tweet with those cutie-pie babies and the Nelson Mandela quote:
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..."
The sign is being held by Chuck, husband of Deb, brother-in-law of Pam, a crew I met on the way to the march and ended up staying with throughout . Along the way, we added Ayesha to our band. Here’s Ayesha with her sign:
She was marching so her grandkids don’t have to.
The crowd was large, loud, spirited, blissfully diverse with respect to race, age, and sexual orientation. And from where I walked in its midst, 100% peaceful. Not to mention full of excellent signs. Here are a few of my favorites.
It was overcast when I left for the march, and overcast was predicted for the duration, so I figured I’d be okay without water. Wrong! The sun came out, so I popped into a Subway to slake my thirst, and pick up a bottle for Pam, who’d gone through hers already. I grabbed three bottles, but the line was so long at the checkout.. I will have to admit I did my old lady privilege thing and just handed one of the kids working there $20 and walked out. Nice to be able to throw down $20 for three bottles of water without thinking twice. Not everyone, I realize, can do that.
By the time we were approaching Boston Common, I’d gotten a text from my sister Trish that the “free speech” rally had been virtually unattended and was already over. It turned out to be pathetically organized. Apparently the mikes didn’t even work.
On the way, I’d been making jokes about outnumbering the alt-wrong 1,000 to one. And that was about the way things turned out to be. 40,000 of us, about 40 of them.
Overall, there were 33 arrests. Our quite wonderful Police Commissioner, Bill Evans said:
“99.9% were here for the right reason. To fight bigotry.”
Actually, if you do the math, it looks more like 99.999%. Five nines! That’s pretty damned good. And not all of those arrests were fringe, anti-fa elements, either. (By the way, a shout out to the BPD who did an excellent job as far as I’m concerned.)
Anyway, yay Boston!
I’m all for free speech. Let those a-holes chant “Blood and Soil” all they want. But part of my free speech is getting out there and chanting, No Nazis, No KKK, No fascist USA.
They – the Nazis, the KKK, the fascists - turned out not to be here. But if they’re thinking about coming to Boston, I want them to know that we outnumber them 1,000 to 1. (Which I hope is the ratio across the entire country, by the way.) And our signs are a whole hell of lot better than their ridiculous tiki torches.