How to battle hate groups – without guns

Lee Chottiner

Human Resources
Lee Chottiner

On Oct. 27, 2019, Jonathan Mayo was arrested in Pittsburgh.
It was a good thing. Even Jonathan thinks so.
Jonathan, and others, were peacefully protesting then-President Donald Trump’s visit to Pittsburgh on the first anniversary of the Tree of Life shootings. Mayo was taken into custody during a downtown demonstration.
No one could have been prouder of what happened than Jonathan himself.
“I got arrested!” he texted me gleefully, shortly after the fact.
A little bewildered, I replied, “Mazel tov?”
“Absolutely!” he insisted.
I have known Jonathan for a long time. A sportswriter, first for the New York Post, then for MLB.com, he was introduced to me after I became executive editor of the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. Jonathan had read my paper, decided it needed a sports column and offered to write one. I eagerly accepted.
For the next three years, in addition to his work at MLB.com, Jonathan wrote a column for me about Jews in sports, which was so well received it won a Golden Quill Award for journalistic excellence in western Pennsylvania.
At the time, I wouldn’t have thought of Jonathan as a social activist, but after he stopped writing his column, he slowly moved in that direction.
Why am I telling you all this? January 6, 2021, another day that will live in infamy, revealed the rift that exists in this country in all its ugliness. The United States was savagely attacked – by its own people. And it will probably happen again.
We had warnings. Tree of Life was one. Take that right-wing gunman who murdered 11 innocent worshippers, multiply him by a thousand, and you have something like what happened at the Capitol. Yes, we should be afraid.
But we must not be paralyzed. Instead, we must fight. Not with guns, bombs, flag poles, fire extinguishers, crutches or anything else that can be hurled, bludgeoned or fired.
There are other ways.
Jonathan found a way to fight. He fought with his ideas, and he willingly put his body on the line. Fortunately, the Pittsburgh police, girded in riot gear that day, arrested him peacefully.
So Jonathan chose civil disobedience, an American tradition dating back to Henry David Thoreau and practiced by Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and many American Jews.
There are yet more ways to fight back:
• Use your voice. Write! Many members of Congress feel threatened for voting their consciences on impeachment. They need to hear from you. Write to them; call their offices. It’s your way of standing with them.
• Stand with each other. Social media can feel coarse and consuming, especially these days, but it is also a wonderful way to draw strength from one another, to share ideas for action.
• Keep your eyes open. I was amazed by the number of times the photo of Robert Keith Packer, the man clad in that disgusting Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt, was shared on Facebook. Hundreds, probably thousands, of eyes saw it. He had no place to hide and was soon arrested.
• Above all, take care of yourselves through meditation, sleep, exercise, a conversation with a friend. If you must, put on a pair of boxing gloves and pummel a punching bag. (This, too, is a form of fighting, keeping yourself from drowning in despair.)
It’s natural to be frightened on occasions like this, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be frightened; this is natural. but we must find our own individual ways to rise above it. The alternative is submission, and we know how that worked out for Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s.
Today’s militias, which are nothing more than modern-day Nazis, are trying to use fear to assert authoritarian control over us. They have dropped any pretense of believing in law and order. Need proof? D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone, tasered and injured while resisting the mob at the Capitol, felt the crowd strip him of his ammo, his radio, even his badge. Then he heard, “Kill him with his own gun!”
One officer was killed. More than 50 were injured.
Gandhi once told the British, in so many words, that millions of Indians cannot be governed by their colonial masters if they simply do not wish to be governed, hence his nonviolent revolution, which proved successful. (India gained independence in 1947.)
So keep resisting in any meaningful, nonviolent way you can; save the shows of force for the police and Army.
The times are tough, but so are we. (Trust me). And, like the pandemic, things could get worse before they get better. But our democracy is not a luxury; it is an essential of life. Trust yourselves to protect it.

(Lee Chottiner is the editor of the Jewish Louisville Community.)

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