America needs to address, combat Nationalism

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Creative Commons Image by Chad Davis From Flickr

A clash between Proud boys, who are dressed in their groups signature black and yellow, and counter protesters outside the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion on Nov. 28, 2020 in a “Stop the Steal” protest. The white nationalist group is protesting over false allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 Presidential election.

With recent and violent attacks on the United States in the form of an insurrection on the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6, Canada has opened an important conversation by officially labeling white nationalist group The Proud Boys as a terrorist group. Many wonder whether the United States should do more to combat white nationalism and domestic terrorist groups. As more citizens weigh in on this topic, local students and community members are attempting to educate themselves on this subject of white nationalists and the extremist groups they inspire. Educating oneself on topics such as White Nationalism and other extremist ideologies is one of the best ways to combat the hateful sentiments that these groups, like the Proud Boys, preach.

White nationalist militia groups have been tied to numerous violent attacks on American citizens, like the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, and the Kenosha shooting in Wisconsin on Aug. 25, 2020. The Proud Boys had direct ties to the Insurrection, with members being detained and charged due to their actions on that day. These connections were a catalyst for Canada’s recent ruling, officially labeling the Proud Boys and 13 other organizations as domestic terrorist organizations. 

Public Safety Canada stated in a public statement the Proud Boys members “have openly encouraged, planned and conducted violent activities against those they perceive to be opposed to their ideology and political beliefs.”

This ruling means the Canadian government can now seize property and other items with connections to the organization and their members’ financial institutions are “subject to reporting requirements” while adhering to Canada Anti-Terrorism Act

“I think the reasoning is justified because when a group of people terrorizes people endangering their lives,” junior Rachel Dagbrovie explained. “I don’t know if you have heard AOC talk about how she felt threatened at the Capitol. Her life was literally in danger. They were intending to kill her and when it comes to that point, I think it is safe to say they are a terrorist.” 

Dagbrovie is referring to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s personal testimony of the events of Jan. 6, during an Instagram Livestream. 

“It was the climax of everything,” junior Tommy White said when asked about the insurrection at the Capitol. “All of the taunting, demonetization, and corruption all led to that point. And I feel like it will go down in history as really, really bad… but it could signify a turn for the better and start to make a change.”

“We let a group of white people with Trump flags storm and disgrace our capital, threaten the lives of our lawmakers because we have been less willing to confront Domestic Terrorism,” social studies teacher Michael Kaul said. “Look at how many examples we have had of white supremacy, militia groups. Domestic extremism is by and large the biggest threat and our government has said that, but we have not had people willing to enforce it.” 

Unbeknownst to many, militias are illegal in the United States, though many militia organizations see themselves as perfectly legitimate and legal organizations even if groups like them are illegal in all 50 states. The common definition of a Militia is a group of private organizations including paramilitary forces or similar groups. 

Kaul explained, “no state enforces it, no state says ‘yeah militias are illegal but we’re going to disarm you and we’re going to disband you.’ Why won’t they take them on?… because we’ve had a narrative in this country that the real terrorists and extremists are Muslim… ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter. The real terrorists are not God-fearing people from Michigan or Ohio, who happen to also be white. We’ve permitted in society for these groups to play militia and use The Second Amendment as a way to say they have the right to do this… to invade the Capitol… [referring to the Michigan State Capitol]. An extremist group threatens to kidnap and kill the governor of a state and have our national government not condemn it strongly and come down on it but say Ashley’s crazy and she shut down your state because of COVID.”

You shouldn’t be able to base violence off of it and then fall back on the First Amendment for your protection from justice.”

— Tommy White

This ruling has brought white nationalism into discussion, so it is important to understand the definition of Nationalism. Nationalism, as defined by Oxford languages, is the identification with one’s nation and support of its interest, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations. 

“First of all people get the definition of nationalism wrong all the time. They confuse it with patriotism. Patriotism is different. Patriotism is a pride and love of your country. Nationalism is a feeling that people with a common history culture and language belong together,” Kaul said. 

Kaul explained white nationalism is a twist of this concept: essentially America is a country where “white Christians belong together. And it’s not for Muslims, it’s not for people from Mexico.”

White Nationalism is the exclusion of other races from a country or state on the basis that they do not fit their definition of “normal.”

Violence inspired by nationalism permeates world history, most notably with the Assassination of Archduke Frans Ferdinand which was a catalyst for World War 1 Kaul explained, “The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand was an act by Serbian terrorists, the Black Hand, a terrorist extremist organization, assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne… a nationalist movement that started a World War. Nationalism has been there.”

But now the question is, what can the United State do to combat it, what can citizens do to combat the hate those extremist groups like the Proud Boys espouse?  

Some have suggested other countries follow in the footsteps of Canada and label the Proud Boys and other white nationalist groups that have inspired violence as domestic terrorist groups. Though the counter-argument has been made these groups are exercising their First Amendment Right, which ensures American citizens’ rights and protection to practice religion, freedom of speech and press, the right to petition the government, and the right to peacefully assemble. Canada does have a law limiting hate speech, as determined in Canada under the Criminal Code, with legal punishments being dealt with for the willful promotion of hatred. 

On this point, White said, “I feel like you should be able to say, what you believe no matter how horrible it may seem, but you shouldn’t be able to base violence off of it and then fall back on the First Amendment for your protection from justice.” 

“I don’t think it’s protected by the First Amendment,” Dagbrovie said, “like the Insurrection is definitely not. But the thing is… you can go out and say whatever you want, because of the First Amendment, but you cannot act on it.”

Others have suggested we as a country learn from this event and take the opportunity to educate those in our community who would spread extremist ideas. 

Dagbrovie offered this hopeful sentiment, “I think our generation has been doing a good job so far on educating others when it comes to issues that are dividing our country. For example, with BLM… people are speaking up and bringing the conversation to the table amongst their families, their friends, and I feel like it is a huge part of the change. The protests have been huge to a bunch of my friends and I have gone. I know so many people who have gone, and if we keep this going, I can see a bright future.”