Notes From an Organizer: How to Love a Fascist
Yesterday I was sitting in an office of a store director at a large grocery store chain sifting through about half a dozen grievances and educating management on the Collective Bargaining Agreement between my union, the United Food & Commercial Workers, and her company. When things wind down she often talks politics with me and pokes my brain about the election. The recent election has been difficult for myself personally on many levels, to the point where I had to take a hiatus from social media with news links, and even stopped listening to the news, the radio, reading newspapers, and essentially holed up at home for weeks after voting day.
My response to her was: “There is a famous labor quote that says, don’t mourn, organize.” I saw her pen it down on a notepad sitting on her desk, it was new to her, and much of the union rhetoric, ideas, and history is also new to her.
She, although on the other side of the table, is also worried. Her family immigrated from Northern Africa, has suffered the realities of terrorism under the guise of radical theology, and is now half and half supporting a new President Elect who spouts familiar sounding ideas. My family has also fallen prey to these ideas. On Election Day, my little brother texted me to tell me “voted TRUMP, bitch!”
My little brother is the definitive Trump voter: he is almost 30, white, business school student, lives at home with my parents and his girlfriend, thinks racial slurs are funny, and school is just something you do to get a job. He is and always has been comfortable, probably worries about prospective discomfort in his near future, has not had the opportunity to travel much, and presents as a middle-class bro-type. Sometimes it is very difficult for us to be in the same room together, and it is almost always difficult for us to have a conversation lasting more than a few sentences.
He doesn’t think what he is supporting is textbook fascism, and at this point, he hasn’t had an honest education to teach him anything beyond propaganda about WWII. Although my grandpa was a Purple Heart veteran of WWII, fought on the front lines, and came home with a Luger and an SS ring, he never spoke about his experiences because he didn’t want his grandchildren to know he had taken another person’s life. To my brother, and most people, fascism is Nazi’s putting Jews into death camps. That is not happening here, so we are safe.
I spoke to him about how this election would affect many people who are not as lucky as he is to have supportive parents, access to college, a comfortable place to live for free, and not to mention, white skin. He laughed at me and brought up Benghazi and emails, he told me that she is a “lying bitch”. I tried to explain to him that he needs to check out better sources for his information. He laughed at me and showed me a picture of a bloodied, dead, man in rubble, and said “THAT is on YOU! THAT is a DEAD diplomat, and it’s YOUR fault!”
We have not spoken much since this. I found myself trying to help someone learn who had no interest in going beyond what he already believed, and maybe in some ways I was equally as guilty. This person I was arguing with was my own brother, and I can’t control his ideas to match my own. Even if those ideas may hurt other people.
I thought about him a lot after my conversation with the Store Director, and I thought about the quote I told her. That quote I have heard so many times that is almost seems stale at this point, like a corny exclamation point. In reality, this has now become an important mantra to focus people fighting the resurgence of white supremacy- something that has never gone away in the first place.
I need to keep marching, keep trying, and practice patience with people like my brother. I love him as my brother, and he is only human, working within the constraints of what he knows as truth. In a few weeks, I will be getting on a bus to Washington DC to join a march with other union friends. We will be a force, and the work will feel good.
“Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel.
Don’t waste any time mourning.
– Joe Hill
Whitney Dziurka is the UFCW 951 Union Representative, working in Flint and Lansing MI.
Graphic @ Whitney Dziurka 2017. This is my beautician mother with her fabulous big 80s hair, my brother after giving himself a haircut, and myself after also receiving a haircut from him. We are celebrating his birthday.