“If the enemy had known how weak we were, it would probably have reduced us to jelly. It would have crushed in blood the very beginning of our work.” — Joseph Goebbels, 1934
Originally, this column was going to tackle the idea of authenticity in our local art scene. But then, Nazis … oops, sorry about that, White Nationalists decided to stomp all over the University of North Florida, in support of Ken Parker who, as a former Grand Dragon of the KKK (Florida realm) and a current member of the National Socialist Movement, is one of their own.
For those unaware, the 37-year-old Parker recently posted an image of himself online—in it, he’s shirtless and holding a very large gun—drawing to mind a wizard waving his wand, perhaps. He was suspended because the image, though taken in the privacy of his home, was construed as a “threatening message and a disturbing image” by the university.
Monday morning, he was scheduled to appear at a conduct hearing. Supporters and then counter-protestors decided to show up.
In thinking about Parker’s stated agenda (to Folio Weekly on Oct. 26, 2016), that’s a return to a Leave it to Beaver-style country which is—if not exactly a white ethno state—at least a country centered around the construct of whiteness. “You can’t watch more than five minutes of TV without seeing a commercial and almost every single commercial you see, they have mixed couples on there […] They’re destroying the fabric of our American society,” he said.
That idea of whiteness, of who gets to “own” being white and participate in all of its privileges (including unchallenged access to a publicly supported education, despite despicable posturing—if Parker’s behavior is an example) is—at its core—a question of authenticity.
And a central part of deciding American authenticity—other than the shade of one’s skin—is demonizing people easily identified as “other.” Fear mongering and the myth of dangerous men aren’t new. Writing in an Oct. 9, 2017 op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dr. Ashley Rondini noted: “When hate groups terrorize those they characterize as “dangerous,” they rationalize their attacks as preemptive self-defense. This rationale has been a mainstay in the historical persecution of racial and religious minorities, especially in the Western world.”
It’s 7:47 a.m. Monday and it’s rather quiet at the Alumni Building where both supporters and protestors of Parker are slated to appear. At the time, police and media presence outweigh the few anti-Parker protestors who’ve shown up, and there’s no sign of supporters.
By about 8:15, a small group of “concerned citizens,” unaffiliated with any organized group, have arrived. They’re holding signs that state they’ve raised more than $1,200 since Friday, Nov. 17 in support of institutions that “cherish diversity,” in the wake of the announced pro-Parker protest.
There are students, too; some in support, some curious about the fracas and uncertain how long they’ll stay. “We do have class,” one young man points out.
At 8:55 a.m., the police hold the light at the corner of Kernan Boulevard and Alumni Drive because, as a few gleeful voices shout out, “The cavalry is here!” It’s members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and they’re chanting as they march toward the building, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these Nazi scum have got to go.”
About a half-hour later, at 9:30 a.m., four people in support of Parker show up, one in what seems to be a homemade Schutzstaffel (SS) uniform (black shirt and pants with lightning bolts on the collar). This is Burt Colucci; he says he’s from Central Florida, and a member of the National Socialist Movement.
When asked why he’s here, he says he’s in support of Parker, “… there’s a precedent to be set here, you can’t just go around kicking people out of school.” But he believes that Parker will ultimately be suspended from the university because the school will act to protect itself financially.
When asked why he decided to show up in an SS uniform, he says again, for support; but as the conversation continues, it becomes clear that Colucci’s support is for a peculiar brand of national socialism that he describes as “American” and the cure for “what’s wrong with America.”
When asked what that specifically is, he replies with a word salad that mashes up Jewishness and homosexuality, saying that people of Jewish heritage lure white people into homosexuality, and other white people are mad about it. When asked which white people are upset, he replied, “the better white people.”
After the press gaggle leaves—returning to cover the anti-Parker protestors—Colucci raises his megaphone and starts shouting about sorry communists, Trump, something about crackers and a little about basements (someone shouts back that Florida doesn’t have basements, dumbass). Really, it’s hard to hear him over the shouts (and laughs) of the protestors who’ve turned their backs on him.
A million online trolls and bots might make a difference, but when you put your body where your beliefs are, that’s when—in Jacksonville (at least)—the fascists fall short.
At 10:20, the focus of all the furor is spotted leaving the building; Ken Parker quickly gets into an anonymous sedan and is whisked away. It’s quite a solid object lesson in how weak the alt-right actually is, and an even better reason to keep fighting.
Because authenticity in America should lean toward those who fight for inclusion and justice, not toward those who rebut history and other humans.