Guest column

Control - alt right - delete

By Michael Cunningham | Feb 07, 2018

I want to make one thing very clear: The Waldo County Republican Committee absolutely, unequivocally condemns Nazi and KKK ideologies and actions, as well as any other kind of bigotry, and we encourage all of our voters and the community at large to do the same.

For fellow Republicans out there, worry not, we don't like Antifa's ideology and actions either, but we need to clean our own house; we need to worry about our own responsibilities.

Defining the origin of “alt right” is similar to trying to pin down the origin of Arab Spring — tons of theories, all plausible, yet the process of doing so is ultimately useless. The more useful course of action is trying to understand how it gained momentum. It did not gain traction by triggering supposed “latent racist” qualities of the right.

This may come as a surprise to some but the reason the Republican party was formed is that black lives matter. The first platform of the national Republican party, written in 1856, states the following: “It is both the right and the imperative duty of Congress to prohibit in the Territories those twin relics of barbarism — Polygamy, and Slavery.”

The alt right movement, regardless of origin, gained momentum by communicating frustration about a growing language prison in our country, that some colloquially refer to as “politically correct” or “PC” language. The danger of PC language is not just that you can't communicate ideas freely, but that it dismisses and marginalizes people before they can admit fault or a mistake. People are simply not being given time to explain their mistakes, which is absolutely key to growing from those mistakes.

It was brought to my attention recently that one of our committee members had communicated what he thought was support of free speech to the town manager of Jackman. It was interpreted, however, as tacit support for racist ideas. The committee member's mistakes, with his amateur attempts at journalism, were errors in timing and insufficient research, but ultimately being too polite to ask really tough questions.

We held an emergency meeting to discuss political perceptions, a concept I can assure you is quite nuanced, complicated, and very new to some. We had censuring on our agenda but gave the committee member a chance to explain himself. We had a lengthy discussion about how perception is reality to the media, and in politics.

Having spent a decade studying body language with the U.S. Army, I could tell this committee member was very afraid, clearly shaking at times. Fear that a mistake he made would haunt him forever, and force him to live life in his community labeled as someone he is not.

That fear was visibly missing from all of Jackman Town Manager Tom Kawczynski's post-dismissal video interviews with the media. The answer is quite obvious to me: Mr. Kawczynski cares not if you label him as a racist, because he is fully aware that any persecution will only further benefit his cause — one that he is currently profiting nicely from with all the media attention.

Which brings us to the precipice of the issue: Love trumps hate.

The most dangerous part of politics today is identity politics, trolling, pathos and a severe lack of critical thinking. You cannot defeat the insidious hatred of bigoted politics with more hate. By doing so, you morph the conversation away from policy and ideology to silly label syntax, eventually devolving completely into back and forth verbal gymnastics. Make no mistake, these trolls are ready for you as you stoop to their level, and they beat you up with mountains of experience.

So what do we do? Very simple. Stay neighborly by controlling your reaction. Seek out those with whom you disagree, try to understand them first, and politely offer your counter argument.

Christian Picciolini, the former leader of the Hammer Skins in America, turned his life around and now gets people out of Neo-Nazi groups. He says it's not the ideology; it was the comfort they offered to broken, lonely and marginalized people that made them want to join, stay on board, and even accept the hateful ideology. He also said that labeling and attacking only causes further retreat into those hateful groups.

You must seek these people out, even those by whom you are repulsed, and offer a warm welcoming back to the rest of society to be able to help them understand the flaws of their thinking.

The way to defeat Mr. Kawczynski is not by attacking him, but by attacking his ideas. Here are some flaws in his thinking: His immigration ideas are antithetical to the Maine Republican party platform, a section of which states, “We support the assimilation of legal immigrants into Maine society.”

Kawczynski's ideas stand in contrast to Maine history and culture; in fact, it is white folks with racist ideologies who pose the greatest threat to Maine's foundation, not other races of people.

Another of his flawed ideas is that voluntary segregation (an impossible and ignorant concept) would cut down on crime. In 2015, according to Department of Justice statistics, Hawaii, with 25 percent of its population white, had fewer murders (1.3 out of 100,000) than the state of Maine (1.7 out of 100,000) with a 94-percent white population.

Ultimately, all you have to do is walk outside with your eyes open in this state to see that Kawczynski's fearmongering about "white genocide" is completely laughable.

One of the theories of the origin of the “alt right” is that it was born out of a 4chan.org channel called “incel.” Incel, meaning involuntary celibacy, is a group of men angered by their perception that modern feminism deprived them of love in their life. Learning this reminds me rather eerily of Wilhelm Reich's theory of how men with loveless lives made for dangerous men gaining power that ultimately lead to the Nazi movement of Germany.

I ask you all then, as neighbors, to come together, to talk, to offer those consumed by hate a chance to be loved again. We plan to post an article on our website, waldogop.com, that will provide a point-by-point refutation of Mr. Kawczynski's website. I encourage you to reach out to me at chair@waldogop.com with any comments, concerns, or any other inquiry. If you know anyone consumed by hate whom you would like to help but feel you need assistance in doing so, I beg you to contact me. Most of all, please know that we have nothing but love for our community.

Michael Cunningham is chairman of Waldo County GOP.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Kevin Riley | Feb 09, 2018 11:42

Yes a good article except one point. Antifa is not an organization political or otherwise. There is no group calling themselves Antifa as an organization like nazis or kkk. Antifa, short for anti fascist is an ideological stance not an organization. The aforementioned article is antifa, anti fascist, by every measure. Ms. Ortmann's post is antifa. I'm a little shocked Mr. Cunningham is not aware of that fact and used the term to imply an organized group. To say one does not approve of the antifa ideology is to intimate one might give fascism, or some form thereof, a pass.  The ideology of "antifa" is by word and definition against all fascist leaning ideologies.  The vast majority of this country is antifa. Our WWII generation was antifa.
If one is NOT antifa you are definitely on the wrong side of history. REALLY wrong.



Posted by: Martha H. Ortmann | Feb 08, 2018 06:57

Excellent column.  I trust that the majority of Mainers think as you do- that bigotry and hatred are antithical to American values. I think of PC meaning Polite Conversation. And it has never crippled my expression of ideas when I am cognisent of my audience and use respectful language  Having a filter and thinking before one speaks is a useful skill to develop  The core Christian value of Love for all is challenging in these troubled times but Love wins



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