I don’t know what I’m supposed to do on a day like this. I read something online, someone said “You want to know what you would have done during the Civil Rights Movement or WWII? What you’re doing today.” Today I was injecting a steady stream of reports of the vilest qualities of Americans. I couldn’t stop. I’d refresh Twitter, catch up, go to the Washington Post, see no new updates, check Facebook, go back to Twitter, watch our president bumble his way through the most generic statement possible regarding domestic white supremacist terrorism, get infuriated, whisper shout to my wife about how much I hate our leadership (because our baby was sleeping in the next room), rinse, repeat. Oh, I tweeted. I retweeted! I posted on Facebook! I told everyone how upset this makes me! That’ll show the bigots!
A day like today stirs in me the need for some sort of action. I see white supremacists soiling America and I feel like I need to take a direct action to stop them. I see a young woman murdered by one of them and to be perfectly honest, I do not want to take this to the streets. My son is not yet five months old. I will not risk my life in front of these impotent, frothing mediocrities. I didn’t vote for the president who enabled this. My senators and my representative are notable progressives. They called today’s actions out for what they were: white supremacist terrorism. I’ve denounced things like this on social media since they entered the news cycle, which lines up surprisingly well with when Donald Trump became the frontrunner for the GOP nomination. I live my life in a way that, to the best of my knowledge, would never empower any of the young men who showed up in Charlottesville today. I will do everything I can to make my son understand that people like this are wrong, they need to be resisted, he should never become one of them. I don’t know what else to do because none of this feels like enough.
I have words. I can talk about a thing, shine light on it. For whom? Who will read these words that doesn’t already know what I’m going to say, doesn’t already agree with me? I learned recently about Justice Brandeis’ quote from 1927, that the remedy for hate speech isn’t silencing it, but “more speech.” I can speak. I can put thoughts down and share them. To what end? If there were some secret code that needed to be written to solve this problem, I would write words until that code broke everything open. There is no code. There is no magic saying that will enter the brain of a man who thinks that white men are endangered and make him realize how incredibly shortsighted and ahistorical his thinking has become. Every single thing I’ve ever been taught my entire life, the most basic lessons we give our children, all push against what happened in Charlottesville today. They push against everything that has happened since November 8th. How can you change someone who never absorbed the fundamental lessons about what it means to be human, who can’t see themselves in anyone with a different shade of skin? I am a single person standing in front of a rushing wave of human filth and I can only throw my hands out and say “stop.”
I want to be funny. I want to write the most cutting satire of these people and their enabling leader, Donald Trump. I want to pummel them with my words and yank their pants down and show the world their silly, pasty asses. I can’t be funny. I’m too furious and too sad. I’m too embarrassed by my country and its leader. I knew things like this would happen, I knew it would be bad. I never knew it would be this bad. I never imagined our president would fumble over condemning white supremacist terrorists. I never thought anyone could be so weak. I couldn’t begin to imagine how embarrassing he would be. This poison sits in me and festers and I fume over the dog’s spilled water dish, my laggy internet connection. I misdirect this aimless fury at the scared children terrorizing our country and the feckless mushy stooges who hold office over us, I aim it at the mundanities around me that don’t go my way. I look at my son and I smile, and I kiss his head and tell him I love him. I tell him I will try to make this better for him. I tell him that lie and hope it becomes true.
Colin Fisher is many things to many people, but mostly he’s an actor and writer.