My friend Ryan Harvey posted an article entirely in German about an allegedly fascist attack that killed a family of asylum seekers and injured 20 after squatters’ rights protests in the city. Made this poem up pretty much on the spot. Let me know what you think!
I remember saying that we would all be better off if all the disabled people in the world were rounded up and gassed when I was about nine. That meant all the dribbling kids I played wheelchair basketball with, every patient slouching next to me in a hospital bed, and, of course, me. I’m lucky I don’t believe everything I say. The problem is, though, that there are people who think like that in the world today and you don’t have to be taking over a small town in North Dakota carrying a Third Reich banner and a rifle to be one of those people. You don’t even have to be a middle-aged gay man in a sub-par white supremacist Joy Division imitation to think that way, all you have to do is hurt.
We all have fascists in us; that’s why I take anti-fascism so seriously. I’m not just going to wear a red and black bandanna over my face in the street until I get a law degree and start voting Democrat, anti-fascism is self-preservation. No matter where I am in life, I will remember Action T4, the maneuver by which the Nazis gassed and sterilized tens of thousands of people with disabilities. I’ve had nightmare after nightmare of braces, casts, and crutches piled up against a barbed wire fence as smoke from burning bodies wafts in my direction. It always occurs to me as I wake up that I’m the guard. If I’m not the guard, I’m Hitler himself. There’s no running away from it.
From 1939 to 1945, the Nazis enforced a program of “racial hygene.” Most of the killing and sterilization of disabled people took place in smaller camps like Grafeneck and Bernberg, hardly the setting of a big-budget Spielberg movie. When you google the term “eugenics,” however, this isn’t what you immediately find. You have to sift through pages of Matt Drudge, Alex Jones, and their followers erroneously trying to tie eugenics to abortion via Margaret Sanger and to vaccines via Bill Gates. Not only is this link easily debunked, this kind of fear-mongering obscures the history we need to be learning from if we don’t want anything like this to happen again. We are worse than Nazi doctors and riot cops if we don’t understand that there are people who we’ve never met who would love to see us dead. The second that we pretend they don’t exist, we become them. When we can’t face the cripple in the mirror, we’ve lost to them. When we are honest with ourselves and each other about the struggles in our lives, we’ve begun to beat them.
Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician and organizer of Action T4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There’s a spot on N. Howard Street in Baltimore where I’ve seen some of the greatest shows in my life. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be going back there any time soon. An openly fascist neofolk band called Death In June is playing there tonight, and as a queer Jew with a disability, I refuse to pay any venue that gives a platform to the kind of hate that wiped so many people off of the planet. It’s a Sunday show, so it’s unlikely that the turnout will be high, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to sit this one out. Death In June playing to a room of six people could mean another six million dead. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again. In the 1920’s, fascists paraded around Western Europe without much of a response. Mussolini’s March on Rome in 1922 and Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 are the two most menacing examples of fascism taking root a decade before it engulfed the world into a period of war and genocide. Hitler and Mussolini’s speeches started attracting small groups of people, but the socio-economic hardships of the time seemed to amplify their oratory skill. They were addressing issues like the near-implosion of finance capitalism and the fear that a “superior” white race could be overtaken by hordes of immigrants. Right now, there are people reacting to bank bailouts, immigration, and Islamic extremism in much the same way.
Doug Pearce of Death In June’s idol, Ernst Rohm, once said, “Brutality is respected, the people need wholesome fear.” Pearce taps into this fear with his music and attracts an audience by spouting racist, xenophobic rhetoric. The fact that the Ottobar, which has played host to so many notable anti-fascist bands, is willing to give a man who said, “those who shouldn’t be able to breed are doing so with frequency,” a place to play is deplorable. Before you ask, “Isn’t it just about t-shirts, tickets, and beer?” I can pretty much guarantee that Sidebar, Club K, Bell Foundry, Charm City Artspace, Liam Flynn’s Alehouse, 2640 Space, and many others would chase neofascists out of town instead of begging them for beer money. If this is about the money, shame on the Ottobar. I’d rather they close than give a stage that changed my life to a bunch of Neo-Nazis. Without Ottobar, I wouldn’t have met Ginger Coyote and been a part of Punk Globe, seen Citizen Fish play one of the most amazing sets of a lifetime, snuck backstage to meet Jello Biafra, or hung out with John Waters and Katrina from Celebration at the bar. I will dedicate my life to fighting against fascism and addressing issues which fascists address in constructive ways. We can never give fascism room to spread, not in Baltimore, not in Athens, not in Berlin, not in Rome, not anywhere. Please tell all touring musicians and performers with an ounce of common sense not to play Ottobar.