It sounds so reasonable, so grown up. It seems such a mature and balanced position to adopt.

I know I have said it myself many times:

There are two sides to every argument.

And of course, it is true. If there were not two sides, there would be no argument. Disagreement means one person takes one position; another person disagrees and proposes an alternative. Even when the differences are profound and the disagreement is sharp, the best way forward is to proceed with respectful dialogue, a willingness to keep talking, and the understanding that we do better when we try to hear the other person carefully than when we push ahead simply asserting our own stance more loudly.

But, there are times – not many times, but a few times – when the only two sides in an argument are the right side and the wrong side.

When one side is promoting hatred, discrimination, prejudice, and racism, there is no place for dialogue, no room for discussion. The racist has no legitimacy; the white supremacist, the Nazi, the Ku Klux Klan have no right to expect an equal hearing for their ideas.

The chants of 11 August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, are not defensible. There is no room for free speech, when the speaker is carrying a flaming torch and screaming:

“Blood and soil”

“White lives matter”

“Whose streets? Our streets”

“Jews will not replace us”

https://news.vice.com/story/vice-news-tonight-full-episode-charlottesville-race-and-terror

When Christopher Cantwell, one of the architects of the right wing, white supremacist, antisemitic protest in Charlottesville, offers the opinion that he is disappointed with the President of the United States because he hoped the President would be

a lot more racist than Donald Trump,

reasonable conversation is not an option.

When Cantwell, goes on to suggest that Trump has demonstrated his unsuitability to lead the US Government, because  he has

given his daughter to a Jew,

Cantwell has forfeited his right to be considered a partner in civil dialogue. Anyone who comments on another person’s marriage saying,

I don’t think that you could feel about race the way that I do and watch that Kushner b—— walk around with that beautiful girl, OK?

has reduced himself to an object of derision. He deserves only to be denounced.

There are limits to free speech. There are barriers that must not be crossed. There is no way to finesse Nazism, white supremacy, or the Ku Klux Klan. Anyone who fails to speak in the strongest possible terms against the ideas propagated by such organizations, places themselves on the wrong side of history and forfeits any right to be considered a responsible and moral person.

Certainly, it is not ideal for those who oppose the vicious ideology of torch-bearing Nazis to respond violently to those who promote hatred and violence. But saying nothing is not an option. History demonstrates with horrifying regularity that hiding behind the sophisticated pretense that there are two equal sides here, is deeply dishonest and  terribly dangerous.

There is no moral equivalence between  those who promote hatred, discrimination, and racial superiority, and those who oppose such opinions, no matter how strongly expressed the opposition may be.

Jesus fled respectful dialogue when he confronted the religious officials of his day, berating them with the harsh words,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. (Matthew 23:27)

Jesus’ anger against the “scribes and Pharisees” was rooted in his awareness that they were placing obstacles in the way of people opening their hearts to God. He charged them saying,

you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them. (Matthew 23:13)

Anything that prevents any person from entering freely and fully into an awareness of the kingdom of love and light that is “the kingdom of heaven” here on earth, is to be denounced in the strongest possible terms. If we do not speak out against those who put obstacles in the way of anyone opening to “the kingdom of heaven”, we have forsaken any claim to moral leadership in civil society.

May all those who exercise any kind of leadership in civil societies speak loudly and clearly in support of those qualities of love, peace, justice, compassion, and respect that all noble religious systems throughout history have always sought to embody.

 

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