I don’t denounce anybody.
I hate the idea of starting with the definition of the word but I think it’s important in this instance. Denounce: to publicly declare to be wrong or evil.
Let’s start with the Nazis. There are exactly . . . well there are some . . . actually no one has any idea how many there are. It’s probably not “a lot” whatever that means. So I went to the Southern Poverty Law Center:
The number of hate groups operating in the country in 2016 remained at near-historic highs, rising from 892 in 2015 to 917 last year, according to the latest count by the SPLC. That’s only about 100 fewer organizations than the 1,018 tallied in 2011, which was the all-time high in some 30 years of SPLC counts.
And the numbers undoubtedly understate the real level of organized hatred in America. In recent years, growing numbers of right-wing extremists operate mainly in cyberspace until, in some cases, they take action in the real world. Dylann Roof, who was convicted late last year of the racist murder of nine black churchgoers, is an example of that — he had no real-world contact with hate groups before deciding, based on propaganda he read on the Internet, that it was time to start a race war.
I looked high and low to see if I could discern how many people were in these 917 hate groups and couldn’t find anything. The KKK has something like 3,000 members with each Klan having 25-100 members. Assuming a “hate group” then ranges from 25-100 members, the entire kettle of hate group fish is somewhere between 23,000 and 92,000. What that means is that in the worst case you put them all in the Rose Bowl.
So here’s my view and it’s a simple one (which should come as no surprise!) — it is not worth my time to determine which of 917 groups might be wrong or evil. There are just too few people! If you want to make a hobby out of it, knock yourself out but I’m not going to waste any of my life’s energy in this pursuit! And the only way I’d denounce anybody is with enough information to say with a high degree of certainty that they are wrong or evil. That includes Antifa, by the way!
There’s also a Part B here. In the United States, anyone can speak their mind given certain rules relating to peaceable assembly. Fine and dandy. If you conduct yourself either individually or as group in ways that are not peaceable, you suffer the penalties as prescribed by law. If Nazis get permits and want to speak, so be it. If Antifa wants to do the same, so be it. If they break the peace, it is the responsibility of law enforcement to restore the peace. That seems, from what I understand, the biggest failing at Charlottesville by the way.
Does that mean I can’t have an opinion? Of course not. My opinion is that the Nazis are a bunch of loons and the only loonier bunch is Antifa!
I also happen to think that the President of the United States should also never denounce any law-abiding citizen. Since we also (once upon a time) assume that a person was innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, it is also improper for a President to act as judge, jury and executioner to people he doesn’t agree with or who may have seemingly committed a crime. All denouncing a person does is cut off any chance of communication which probably will foment more of the same behavior.
Does that mean a President can’t have an opinion? Of course not. The bully pulpit is a powerful thing and setting high standards for citizens is key to what it means to be President.
I really thought we’d solved all of this with the movie The American President. Widowed U.S. President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) falls in love with lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Annette Bening). Shepherd is a Democrat (but you already guessed that). His Republican opponent (Richard Dryfuss) finds a photo of Sydney burning a flag during a protest march in her youth. Shepherd takes the high ground (as opposed to the vicious Republican) and says that his love life is no one’s concern. But it looks like the public is going to turn on him which leads Shepherd to make this speech to the press:
America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.
Go to the 1:00 mark to hear his speech —
Dear President Obama, PLEASE TAKE NOTES. (Originally uploaded as my response to Mr. Obama BOMBING that first debate with Mr. Romney back in 2012. –JG 5.8.17)
And that’s why I don’t denounce anyone. It’s about the most evil thing you can do in the United States because it is at the heart of what makes us great. This is probably the only time I’ve agreed with a Democrat President — albeit an imaginary one!
This movie was made in 1995. And 20 years later the Democrats have become the Richard Dreyfuss character and Donald Trump is President Andrew Shepherd. The only difference is that the Richard Dryfuss character is the hero and President Andrew Shepherd (as played by Donald Trump) is the villain.
I’m guessing Richard Dreyfuss would be all in for a remake!