GREAT, NOW I have to burn my khaki pants. Guess I’ll use my tiki torch.
This is one of the unintended consequences of the racist right running amok in Charlottesville: They made every dad in suburbia look like a Nazi.
Except now, it has been appropriated by Nazis. Nazis brandishing tiki torches. Take a look at the photos from Charlottesville: It looked like the marriage of a Nuremberg rally and an End Of Summer Blowout Daze sale at Target. Anybody who dresses like this feels the same way we do, was the message to be inferred.
At least the Red Wings responded quickly and unequivocally, unlike Donald Trump, who took two days to explicitly condemn (from notes, nonetheless, as though he needed help figuring this one out) the “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups” in Charlottesville. (BTW, it’s one of the unwritten rules of both politics and journalism that you don’t call anyone a Nazi unless he or she is an actual Nazi, like the ones your dad/grandfather gave up five years of his life to quash. In Virginia, they were waving swastikas.)
That was Monday. Two days earlier, Trump merely read out a statement decrying the violence “on many sides,” a phrase that sounded a lot like “sorry that my dog bit you, but you must have done something to provoke him.” And have no doubt: These were Trump’s dogs, not representative of all his supporters but supporters nonetheless.
Trump is hardly the first politician to attract extremists. Preston Manning’s Reform Party continually had to fight its reputation as a nut magnet, expelling those who reinforced the image. In 1988, he overturned the nomination of candidate Doug Collins, a Vancouver newspaper columnist who advocated pro-white immigration policies, among other controversial views. (In 1980, Collins accused Terry Fox of driving through part of Quebec during his Marathon of Hope run).
Manning also ditched members associated with the racist Heritage Front. Similarly, Victoria’s Doug Christie, once described by former Times Colonist columnist Jody Paterson as the “lawyer to the stars of the white supremacist movement,” was thrown out of the Canadian Alliance, Reform’s successor, in 2000.
More recently, the Green Party has had a hard time stopping the loose cannons from rolling around the deck. It punted a former candidate who turned out to be a Holocaust denier in 2016 (the same year in which the party briefly endorsed the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement). In 2008, the party ousted a Lower Mainland candidate who once referred to the World Trade Center towers destroyed by 9/11 terrorists as “shoddily built Jewish world bank headquarters.”
It’s not just political parties. Environmental groups always have to guard against having their causes diminished by the fringe characters who come out of the trees (or not: during 1991’s Walbran Valley anti-logging protests, Vancouver Island RCMP arrested a naked man who smeared himself with human excrement while refusing to descend from the branches, a stunt in which the forest companies detected the influence of U.S.-based eco-terrorists.)
And here’s a secret about column-writing: It’s not the people who don’t agree with me that I worry about it. It’s some of those who do.
I’ll open an email that begins: “I’m just writing to say how much I agreed with your well-researched piece on the Malahat/dog licensing/ sewage,” and I’ll think “my, what a thoughtful and perceptive reader.” Then the email will continue “Would not this problem be easier to solve if we were to enforce eugenics on the Third World?” and I have set my computer alight with a tiki torch.
Well no, what I should do, immediately, is reply: “No, I don’t agree with you, you do not represent me, I am horrified by everything you stand for.” And stop wearing my khakis.