Yesterday in Charlottesville, James Fields Jr. rammed a car into a crowd of leftist protestors, injuring 19 and killing Heather Heyer. May she rest in peace. May he get what he deserves.
There is video of the incident that I will not subject you to. It is chilling, and I will not go into the horrific details of the incident. I want to talk about what happened immediately after. Within seconds, people were rushing back into the street. Some went to the injured. Some sprinted after the car as it pulled away at speed, perhaps trying to get the license plate number. In this moment, these people had no way of knowing the immediate threat was over. For all they knew, they were rushing into the path of the next ram. But these people, in a moment of terror, a moment that took a life, had a greater compulsion to do the right thing than to run away, an instinct towards mercy and generosity so pure and deep-seated that it overpowered their fear and concern for their own safety. There were a lot of them.
Those in Charlottesville who ran back into the street to help their injured comrades are the best of humanity. I see incredible courage in the face of real terror on the left. It has always been there. The history of struggle on the left, be it for labor rights, anti-sexism, anti-racism, is defined by extreme courage. The standard response from the right is that the courage would not be necessary if you would just give up, that you wouldn’t have to struggle if you would just accept your place under the bootheel of the world. That it would be easier to be broken and meek. And it would, certainly— going limp is undoubtedly easier than standing up. But the left keeps standing up, every time under existential threat from institutions of power and the right. Being a leftist activist is, historically, a good way to get yourself killed. Knowing this, most every protestor and activist out in the streets has already reckoned with the importance of doing the right thing versus the appeals of comfortable complacency and not being violently arrested, or worse. Every protestor who stands in solidarity in the streets has already found the courage to cross this rubicon. When courage and conviction are required to even show up, that courage is contagious, and it leads ordinary people to do great things in moments of great terror. Coming together in solidarity against fear and force is in the essential spirit of the left.
I do not know anything about Heather Heyer except that she showed up to stand against hundreds of neo-nazis. The level of courage and conviction in her even showing up is beyond that of any white supremacist cowering behind a police cordon. Her sacrifice will not be forgotten.
On the other hand, the right is defined by cowardly overreaction to imagined slights, leading to a political ideology that emulates the behavior of a spooked horse that is also a picky eater. That’s all I care to say about that for now.
I believe that we will win because of how many people I saw willing to rush into danger to help others. We are too brave to lose. We will win. We will inherit the Earth. We will create a world of mercy and generosity. Until then, we will keep fighting.