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Commentary: With hatred abound, we must organize and overcome our differences

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News broke a few days ago that a certain person with ties to the KKK was running for political office in Great Falls. John Abarr, a name that long-time residents of the Electric City will recognize, will run as a Democrat in the House District 21 election.

Given our current political climate, it should come as no surprise that Abarr would consider running for office. Led by our commander in chief, and a growing number of newly “courageous” Klan members, the atmosphere seems to be ripe for someone with ties to a racist organization to run for, and possibly win, appointments into public service.

This cannot happen. We as a community need to recognize this for what it is, an extremist seeking a way to slide his way into a position of power. Even if he believes he’s a “good guy Klansman” open to accepting people with diverse backgrounds into the organization, that’s like a player from the Denver Broncos wearing a Kansas City Chiefs hat whenever he’s not on the field. He’s still a member of the Broncos at the end of the day whether he wants you to believe it or not.

This environment that has made people such as Abarr feel more empowered to run for office, however, needs more addressing than the action of one person.

The environment where our president can say that the U.S. should not accept people from “shithole” countries and should instead accept more people from Norway, and he has hundreds, if not thousands, of people agreeing with him.

That’s the real crux of the matter at hand. That’s the country we’re now in, whether we want to believe it or not.

So, how do we work on changing this? How do we let the racists, the petty bullies, and the uneducated but privileged people know that their time is up?

We have to continue to be vocal. We have to step outside of our bubbles. We have to do something that might offend someone knowing that you’re doing it for that exact purpose.

Some people need to be offended. They need to get the message. We can’t operate under this kind of leadership. Not locally, not nationally.

A lot of people who have intolerant viewpoints will try to argue that “why is it that you’re preaching tolerance but you won’t tolerate our views? Isn’t that counter to your own beliefs?

That’s only a ploy to weaken those who recognize the danger of their beliefs, however. I will not, nor should others, let that stance get in the way of our goals.

In her article “…It’s fine to discriminate against bigots and bullies,” Laurie Penny explains why tolerating the intolerant should never be acceptable. She writes, ” Fairness and justice are not achieved by calculating the mean average of everyone’s opinion, whatever those opinions happen to be. If my opinion is that you ought to be eaten by a leopard, and your opinion is that you’d rather not, it does not follow that we should compromise by lopping off your least-favourite limb and feeding it to next-door’s cat.”

Paradox of toleranceThat might seem like an extreme example, but the point remains. If we’re willing to accept those who wish to tear down the rights of minorities, we cannot stand as a united city, a united state, a united country. We need to be willing to speak up and go against those who want to separate us. It’s a paradox, but it’s one that’s absolutely necessary to our own survival.

In the past two months, I have seen people on Facebook talk about how all Muslims should be kicked out of the country, or how people identifying as trans should not be allowed into the military. I’ve heard from people I’ve known my whole life talk about NFL players in a way that made them sound if they were less than they are because of the color of their skin. Just last night someone drove by me as I was walking down the street and yelled “white power!” out their window.

All of these things fuel the fire that is cultural separation. We’re better than that. We need to do better. We can do better.

John Abar
John Abarr

If we organize with the sole purpose of showing John Abarr, Donald Trump, Roy Moore, Steve Bannon, or any of the others who have expressed their discrimination openly that these beliefs will not stand, we will push them back to the dark corners of society where they belong.

So how do we do it?

We continue to educate. We continue to march. We continue to call out racists whenever we see them. We recognize that if someone disagrees with you on something, that does not make them as much of an adversary as someone who wants to kick Muslims out of the country or build a wall to prevent Mexicans from entering. We can keep our eye on the real issues, not the small ones that only separate us further.

We walk outside of our comfort zone and be willing to talk to those with disagreements not as a foe but as a friend that has other strengths that any movement needs. We need to examine our lines for what we consider acceptable and what’s not. Are we being too lenient? Are we being too harsh? Do these lines take away from the power to stop people with extreme views?

All of this can be done. We can work together. Let’s make 2018 the year in which we find the spirit to stop the intolerant and when the ball drops into 2019, we can point to all of the good deeds we’ve accomplished together that have moved us closer to that goal.

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