It’s hard to say why anyone pays attention to Neo-Nazi rallies. Or Neo-Nazis. Recently, a group of Neo-Nazis got together in Kansas City to protest immigration reform or something. And the groups of protesters that showed up to protest the protest outnumbered the Neo-Nazis. Honestly, if the news didn’t report on them, I don’t know that Neo-Nazis would even register on the cultural radar.
It makes me wonder a good bit about the nature and usefulness of modern news. Every day, I’m tasked with the job of finding stories that may be of interest to our readers. And every day I ask myself, “Does this really matter?” People love controversy. We love hating things. The Neo-Nazis are an easy target. As are the fading remnants of the KKK and other so-called “hate groups.” I am not saying these people aren’t filled with hate, or that what they’re doing should be applauded. But at least they are honest about basing their identity on a hatred for what they’re not.
The Neo-Nazis, with their peculiar brand of historical and social ignorance, band together out of a desire to belong to something. We all long to belong to something. But the labels we once relied on for self-identification are breaking down or have already become hollow. The common political, religious, and social labels are becoming as anachronistic and superficial as “Neo-Nazi.” The American cultural scene has splintered into a thousand or more pieces, and every piece defines itself with an empty branding of superficial uniqueness. Diversity and divisiveness are seldom far apart nowadays. And the diversity we champion must include every form of stupid. Emanuel Cleaver, Missouri’s fifth district Congressman, admitted as much: “As repulsive as [the Neo-Nazis] are, they have a right to be stupid—even in Kansas City”
We have a right to be stupid too. And most of us exercise that right on a daily basis. Were the people who protested the protest any less stupid than the Neo-Nazis? Or any less filled with hate? Sure, it was a different kind of stupid and a different kind of hate. We all love to hate as well, but we pretend our philosophies of hate are more legitimate because the objects of our hate are somehow more deserving of condemnation. Whether it’s Neo-Nazis, racists, leftists, Anti-Semites or other species of ignorami, we spend a whole lot of our energies hating on things that may not be worthy of our attention. Instead of focusing on building something of value, we choose to spend our time tearing down houses of cards. Most of us base a good deal of our self-perception on what we’re not. But few of us know who we really are.