Today is one of those days that I am responding in part to an article written by Troy Smith. I had almost this same discussion with Troy last week in social media posts and comments. Let me preface my statements with a few disclaimers. I did not see the protests in Cookeville and did not speak to any of the protestors. I saw a photograph of two men holding a flag with a swastika on it. I do not know these men, did not read an article describing what they said or believed, and I am not going to assume anything. For sake of this discussion only, I will accept Troy’s supposition that waving a Nazi flag makes one a Nazi. I will also acknowledge that Troy has mentioned on multiple occasions that these “Nazis” had a legal right to peaceably protest. Troy freely offered his opinion on the matter and expressed his belief to know how elected officials felt about the “Nazis.” I am now going to explain just how misguided Troy is despite all his sanctimonious talk.
The topic that instigated the protest was a Drag Brunch. Let’s not forget that. People were there for and against the Drag Brunch. I imagine that people were in the area for other reasons also, but the first two groups are the ones we are discussing. From secondhand information, I believe that the two “Nazis” arrived after the original demonstration had begun and that most of the original demonstrators segregated themselves from them. Regardless, the arguments that Troy has offered are clearly deficient and completely disregard the point of the original demonstration. The demonstration was not about Nazis. It was about Drag Brunch. Troy is attacking all the protestors because two were “Nazis.” I restate that I do not know what these individuals believe, but, even if they are vile, anti-Semitic, racist, fascists they were there to protest Drag Brunch, not recruiting more Nazis. Demanding that elected officials publicly denounce the supposed unrelated beliefs of protestors, while proclaiming your support for their right to protest, is at the least disingenuous and, at worst, blatantly hypocritical. Troy is saying that he is not interested in what they are doing; he wants others to condemn them for what they believe.
Troy said, “I tell you that everyone who remained on that line chose to stand with Nazis, and that makes them Nazi supporters and allies.” By that logic, a history professor should then also assume that the United States supports communism because we stood beside and allied ourselves with the Soviet Union to fight Hitler. Even enemies can share a common goal. By Troy’s logic, if you are in the same location as a Nazi, you must be a Nazi. If you like breathing, you must be a Nazi because they like breathing, too. That sounds ridiculous when you say it that way, but that is exactly the argument that Troy is offering. We know the evil actions the Nazis committed, and I whole-heartedly condemn those actions. I regularly argue against the beliefs that led to those actions. Despite that fact, the topic of the protests was Drag Brunch. In this country, we condemn and criminalize actions, not beliefs. If you want to support Drag Brunch, make that argument. If you oppose Nazi beliefs, make that argument. You are not changing hearts by painting protestors as Nazi supporters. Is this really the atmosphere that we want to promote? Do we really want to start condemning individuals for their beliefs? Do you want to be judged on every belief of anyone you agree with about anything? It is possible for an individual to oppose Drag Brunch and Nazis. If you want to oppose Nazi beliefs, do it! You don’t need to attack unrelated protestors or politicians. Don’t get lost in unrelated shows of moral outrage. Think for yourself.
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