I am Antifa.
I’ve been wanting to publicly say that for a long time, but Donald Trump has turned Antifa into such a dirty word that there are clear risks involved with making such a statement. I know that by associating myself with that word during Donald Trump’s reign, I risk being imprisoned by Trump’s increasingly authoritarian government for being a “terrorist.” I’ve never participated in looting, burning, or what Trumpians call rioting. I haven’t even been able to participate in peaceful protests this year because of Donald Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic and the prolonged threat he has unnecessarily created for my compromised immune system.
As a wordsmith who was trained in advertising and now spends most of my time writing fiction, I don’t react to words in the way the general public does. I know all the tricks behind word use and propaganda. Words are just words—a powerless string of letters. It is the delivery of words that breathes life into them and makes words what people perceive them to be.
When a word like Antifa is put in the mouth of a self-serving, reckless president like Donald Trump who maliciously spews it at the rate of automatic-rifle ammunition to advance his cause, it becomes a dangerous weapon. This is a strategy that is knowingly employed by many political campaigns. Due to my tendency to use the literal interpretation of words in my writing, I usually ignore the delivery of words from other people and refer to the dictionary definition when I hear them. When I hear the term Antifa, I think of its literal meaning. The Merriam Webster definition of antifa is: a person or group actively opposing fascism. Merriam Webster states that fascism is: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. Sound familiar? If you are alarmed by young people picking up the Antifa label and protesting what is going on in American society, I hope that this literal definition of fascism helps you understand what they are opposed to; what they are currently reacting to; and what they are calling attention to during Donald Trump’s presidency.
While there are some extremists who have picked up the banner of Antifa and have participated in violent activity sometimes resulting in death, according to the Anti-Defamation League, “Right-wing extremists were responsible for 90 percent of such murders in 2019 and for 330 deaths over the course of the last decade, accounting for 76 percent of all domestic extremist-related murders in that time.” Other statistics also show that the majority of domestic terrorist attacks in our country are caused by extremists on the far right—mostly white supremacists. And Trump’s shout out to them during the presidential debate will increase recruitment to far-right causes.
My protagonist Greta in my When Life Was Still trilogy agonized at length about why Americans were remaining silent in the early 20th century and consequently empowering fascists like Hitler and Mussolini. Historical fiction is easy to write because the material that inspires me has been previously documented. But learning from the lessons of the past seems to be a challenging task for many of my fellow Americans. Greta has the courage to ask the tough questions in her historical book that every decent person should be asking today. Society can’t change what it chooses to ignore. Silence in response to those who support white supremacy is the same as support of white supremacy. And it allows people like Hitler, Mussolini, and Trump to rise to positions of power and cause great harm to the world as they pursue their narcissistic agendas.
The day after Trump refused to condemn white supremacy during the presidential debate, the far-right, violent white supremacist Proud Boys are celebrating him as their new leader. They took his debate performance as a rallying cry to take to the streets with violence. Following the debate, Donald Trump was asked while he was on his way to visiting Minnesota what his thoughts were about the extremist Proud Boys. He responded by stating, “Antifa is a real problem on the left . . . . Antifa is a bad group . . . . [Biden’s] got to condemn Antifa. It is not a philosophy; it is people who hit people over the head with baseball bats.”
One of Merriam Webster’s definitions of “philosophy” is: the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group. A definition of a “baseball bat” is: a usually wooden implement used for hitting the ball in various games. Christopher Wray, Donald Trump’s own FBI Director, has testified that Antifa is an ideology. An ideology isn’t the equivalent of an organized hate group like the Proud Boys, the KKK, and so many other extremist groups found on the far-right. Antifa is my philosophy because I am a decent human being who desires equality for all races, and I am opposed to autocracies and dictatorships. And it is my most basic belief and attitude that fascism deserves no place in American society—especially not in the White House. I have never hit anyone over the head with a baseball bat . . . although I admit I was tempted to use a wooden implement on Donald Trump during the presidential debate when he would-not-stop-interrupting!
In Donald Trump’s statements before he departed for his campaign rally in Minnesota, he also said, “Crime concerns me—any form of crime.” My literal mind immediately turns to the fact that tax fraud is a crime. Obstruction of justice is a crime. Lying to investigators is a crime. Conspiring with Russian intelligence against the United States is a crime. Rape is a crime. I’m concerned about all of Donald Trump’s alleged crimes, many of which have been committed as the result of a fascist political philosophy.
I am Antifa. And if you are opposed to fascism and a president who supports white supremacists, you are also the face of Antifa.
© 2020 by Julie A. Ryan. All rights reserved.
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