Now’s the Time for “Never Again”

A piece of advice: if you see a sign like this on a telephone pole in your neighborhood, rip it down.

A “Blood and Soil” sign in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Photo credit: Dario Gal

Don’t just leave it up and take a picture of it, and don’t bother calling the police to investigate. No one has a right to put a sign of any kind on a telephone pole without authorization of the owner, much less a sign of this kind. You’re not violating anyone’s rights by taking it down. If you have a genuine “civic duty” as an American, it’s to express your rejection of the politics of “Blut und Boden“–Blood, Soil, and Master Race–before it takes hold more powerfully than it already has.

By taking it down, you’re doing the owners a favor, and cleaning a bit of noxious moral pollution out of our shared environment. Just as it makes no sense to call the police when you see litter or graffiti in the street, it makes no sense to call them for this. The police have better things to do. Instead, take the matter literally into your own hands, and take responsibility for your neighborhood. Unless it’s stapled or nailed in, it’s not hard to do; you don’t need a Glock, a taser, and a badge to take down an unarmed sign. You just need a sense of decency and a bit of initiative. (And if it is nailed or stapled in, just pour some water or soda on it, and you should either be able to peel it off or ruin it.)

The people displaying these signs should come to see that we’re not afraid to take them down without the need for armed intervention, armed escort, or gratuitous violence: what they put up by stealth, we take down in daylight. And if you’re the kind of person who wants to display a sign of this sort, have the courage of your convictions: put it on your own front lawn, and prepare to pay the consequences. You might in the process learn a thing or two about what it’s like to be an immigrant.

Apart from being racist, the sign misrepresents the law in the name of upholding it: violation of immigration regulations is not invariably a crime; improper entry is a crime, but unlawful presence is not. And apart from misrepresenting the law, the sign violates the law in the name of upholding it: it’s against the law to post a sign on someone else’s property without their consent, and telephone poles are “someone else’s” property. The telephone poles of New Brunswick are not owned by “Blood and Soil.” Not yet, anyway. Let’s try to keep it that way.

What is it that Blood and Soil wants? This is what they want: misery, hardship, and dislocation for its own sake, with a legal-rigoristic figleaf as cover. They want to hide behind Trump’s rhetoric about Mexican immigrants, hide behind white nationalist obfuscation, and destroy the lives of the deserving and innocent in the name of a “whiteness” that they can neither define nor defend–and that would lead them to “white” ethno-fratricide before they ever managed to figure it out. Obviously, they’d never figure it out, because there’s nothing to figure out: the “whiteness” they idolize is itself a cover for the essential nihilism of their movement.

I grew up in New Jersey, drinking in the “never again” slogans with my public school education. Well, now’s the time for “never again.” Because the problem with “never again” moments is that you don’t get a second chance.

(PS: if you live in the vicinity of Montclair or Bloomfield, you may not find any racist flyers to tear down, but the Montclair Sanctuary Alliance is having a Hannukah celebration this Thursday in defense of immigrants…. Props to Rabbi Elliot Tepperman and everyone else involved for the work they’ve done on it.)

2 thoughts on “Now’s the Time for “Never Again”

    • I think “despicable morals” have just been dormant a long time, and have now been emboldened by the Trump victory. My lawyer was telling me that having done jury selection for decades, he hears things that long ago cured him of any belief in the “fundamental decency” of the average American. I’m sure you encounter some of the same as a therapist, as I do as a college professor.

      Case in point: last week, I had my students read a paper on “moral grandstanding” and comment on this passage in it:

      Relatedly, grandstanding may take the form of what we can call trumping up: the insistence on the existence of a moral problem where there is none.

      The authors give no examples of “trumping up,” so I asked my students to come up with examples of their own.

      One student, in all seriousness, came up with this example: the use of the word “nigger.” According to the student, people often treat the use of this word as a moral problem, but obviously, no real problem exists. I mean, what conceivable problem could there be with using the word “nigger”? Clearly, just trumped-up problems. I won’t identify the student’s ethnicity, but suffice it to say that the student wasn’t black (not that the answer would be acceptable if they were).

      Regardless of the student’s ethnicity, consider where this leaves us: apparently, we’ve gotten to the point where a 20-year-old adult is telling us not only that they have no problem using the word “nigger,” but that they can’t even imagine what the problem would be!

      I grew up in a neighborhood, and during a time, when the use of “nigger” was a near-commonplace with certain people. I should know, because I was the nigger of my neighborhood. But even those who used it back then had a sense of why those on the receiving end might find it problematic. That’s why they used it! We have now reached the point at which even that primitive form of moral knowledge is being lost. What lies at the end of this retrogression is anybody’s guess.

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