Fascist rally in Poland shows how the far right has perverted the word ‘patriotism’: Paradkar
Patriotism used to be about the spirit of inclusion. Now, the far right — even in Canada — has made it about exclusion and white supremacy.
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So much for “Never again.” So much for “Lest we forget.”
We have forgotten, and it is happening again. Amid rising intolerance around the world, ill winds are blowing across the West, revealing the ugly faces of white supremacists as they march in Europe, organize in the U.S. and peck at the social fabric in Canada.
They pontificate in the guise of defending free speech when they want to stifle dissent. They moralize on marriage, women’s rights and sexuality when they are threatened by change. They get wistful about a past when they didn’t have to face the consequences of their abusiveness. They mask their fear of others by claiming superiority to them. Then they take all this narrow-mindedness and deposit it into one hideous package, and call it patriotism.
Some 60,000 people, mostly men, took to the streets in Poland on Saturday to mark its Independence Day, waving banners reading: “Clean Blood,” “White Poland,” “Pure Poland,” “Refugees get out!” A banner over a bridge read: “Pray for Islamic Holocaust.”
In Poland, mind you, that victim of racism and fascism in the Second World War, that most white, most Catholic of European countries with a 0.1 per cent Muslim population.
The country’s state broadcaster, conservative government mouthpiece TVP, called the demonstration a “great march of patriots.”
According to the Never Again association, the number of homophobic, racist or xenophobic incidents in Poland went from 20 a month to 20 a week in 2016.
History shows Europe certainly needs no help from the U.S. when it comes to fostering divisions to maintain white hegemony. Far-right parties have been rapidly gaining steam across the continent. Many European nations are victims of Russian propagandists spreading misinformation.'
One year of ideological support from the world’s biggest military power hasn’t hurt, either.
In July when U.S. President Donald Trump was visiting Warsaw, he quoted the words of an old Polish religious song, “We want God,” and invoked the clash of civilizations rhetoric. “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”
“We want God” was the slogan for the Independence Day event this past weekend.
“We know that Donald Trump is not the most religious man, and I think that most of the organizers are not very religious, either,” sociologist Rafal Pankowski, and head of Never Again, told NBC. “But they use Christianity as a kind of identity marker, which is mostly about being anti-Islam now.”
Saturday’s demonstration was one of the largest of its kind in Europe, and included other far-right leaders including Tommy Robinson from Britain and Roberto Fiore from Italy. American white supremacist Richard Spencer was invited, but he was too racist even for Poland’s government and he was kept out of the country.
There are those who will argue that even this putrid Polish crowd was not all bad. TVP said these were not extremists, but regular Poles expressing their love of Poland. These would be the ordinary people who hide behind those who own up to hatred. These are the ordinary folks, about as nice as the pus that flows out of a festering wound, who remain silent in the face of racist incursions on rights of their fellow citizens in the name of patriotism.
Patriotism came in handy for Trump who invoked its symbolism — but not its substance — while criticizing NFL players who knelt in protest during the national anthem. It’s bewildering how a respectful protest against anti-Black racism insults the flag, the country or the military, but that’s the consequence of redefining patriotism as a love of white America.
In the Second World War and after, patriotism was about the spirit of inclusion. Now, the far right has perverted it to make it about exclusion and white supremacy.
Canada is seeing its share of such patriotism. While attempts by a white supremacists to hold a rally in Peterborough and in Kew Gardens Park in the Beaches recently were shut down by anti-fascists, that’s no reason to be complacent: it took just 7 years for Poland to go from sparsely attended far-right rallies to Saturday’s full-blown demonstration.
In Toronto, white supremacists caught trying to paste “It’s okay to be white” posters shouted sexist, homophobic slurs at the Torontoist photographer taking pictures. The message of the posters originate from a strategy called “Hiding your power level” or publicly disavowing Nazis and painting any opposition to this message as anti-white racism, the news site reported.
Anti-immigrant groups such as Quebec’s La Meute position themselves as patriotic. White supremacists groups such as the Heritage Front stake their patriotism as keepers of our traditions. And the name of German PEGIDA which has a Canadian chapter says it all: Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.
The reality is these groups don’t represent patriotism, which, according to Merriam-Webster, has connotations of valour, bravery, duty and devotion. What they stand for is nationalism, and a return to unchallenged white supremacy.
Over our dead bodies.