Submitted by Sarah Darer Littman
I hate to say I told you so but….
If you were shocked by the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th, by the people attacking and murdering police officers while waving Blue Lives Matter flags, by the man wearing a “Camp Auschwitz” t-shirt, or those sporting garments with 6MWE (“Six million wasn’t enough), by people trying to pull off a security officer’s gas mask while his head was crushed in a door, you’ve haven’t been paying attention.
In fact, if you are a Republican, you have probably been willfully turning a blind eye to your party’s open courting of white supremacy and of its willingness to spread disinformation and conspiracy theories.
The rest of us, the 81.2 million Americans who voted for Joe Biden, have long known this day was the inevitable consequence of Trumpism.
Why did you work so hard to deny the obvious? Was it because you wanted your tax cuts? Was it because you approved of the efforts to stack the judiciary with right-leaning judges? Was it because when you think no one is listening, you’re actually a little bit racist, antisemitic, and Islamophobic?
Could it be because you don’t bother to search out information from a variety of sources, so as to challenge your beliefs?
Maybe it’s because you lack Theory of Mind like so many of the “Covid is a hoax” science deniers who only start believing the science when it affects them.
You can’t say you weren’t warned. We told you. This particular writer warned you several times. I wrote about the danger of such rhetoric in late 2015 and after being disgusted by the current CT GOP Chairman JR Romano’s obvious racism and Islamophobia when I asked him to speak out against it.
I wrote about it in April 2016, after the Greenwich state delegation (all Republicans at the time) let the comment “White supremacists are voters, too” stand unchallenged. As a result of that piece, I had some of the more repugnant men in town making sexist posts, calling me ‘hysterical” and commenting on my sexuality.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned after 13 years as a political columnist, it’s that when pseudo-macho men call smart women “hysterical” and comment on their looks and sexuality, it’s because they can’t handle the fact that we’re right.
In August 2017 I attended the Interfaith Vigil in Stamford in the wake of Charlottesville, where white supremacists with tiki torches marched shouting “Jews Will Not Replace Us” and the Nazi slogan, “Blood and Soil” It was after a 21-year-old admirer of Hitler drove his car into a crowd of
anti-racist protestors, murdering activist Heather Heyer.
To her credit, Rep. Livvy Floren showed up at the vigil, which is more than I can say for then State Senator Scott Frantz, whose unwillingness to speak publicly against racist acts I’d written about as far back as 2012. But when I spoke to Rep. Floren privately, begging her to speak out publicly, she said she preferred to work “behind the scenes.” Another Jewish woman joined me, and together we tried to convince Rep. Floren that when it comes to neo-Nazis and white supremacists, history has proved they can only be stopped if we ALL to speak out, loudly and publicly.
Sadly, we weren’t successful.
The next day, I wrote a piece literally begging Republicans to speak out against hate. I warned: “Greenwich Republicans, your silence is deafening. History will remember that you continued to put your party over our country, humanity and decency.”
You obviously didn’t listen to me when it comes to speaking out. Heck, Fred Camillo even tried to tell me that I was the unreasonable one when he refused to admit that a photoshopped picture of State Sen Matt Lesser making his nose bigger, his eyes crazy, and clutching a fistful of dollars was antisemitic – and that was after I sent him examples of Nazi era propaganda, of which it was an obvious imitation.
To Fred’s credit, he did publicly condemn the insurrection at the Capitol. If only he and others in the Greenwich, CT, and National GOP had the courage and integrity to speak out against this rhetoric five years ago, we might not have found ourselves in the godawful place we did last week.
If only then First Selectman Peter Tesei hadn’t decided to bend the town’s own rules to allow a man who spreads disinformation about Covid and Voter Fraud to broadcast from the Town Hall Meeting Room, lending the authority of the Town of Greenwich seal to his lies.
When confronted with malfeasance of their colleagues on the national level, Greenwich Republicans resort to the “let’s focus on Greenwich because the only things that matter are what happens within our borders” strategy, which Camillo and his campaign manager Jack Kriskey, employed during the last First Selectman campaign (yeah, wrote about that, too).
The pathetically late and inadequate statement by Greenwich RTC chair Dan Quigley is the latest example of this. It’s an insult to thinking people, especially those of us who had to fight for our kids to obtain even the basic accommodations mandated by ADA. Quigley conveniently ignores that Republicans were in charge of Greenwich for most of the 30 years in question, and not only that, continue to brag about their “penny wise, pound foolish” approach to keeping taxes low, at the expense of long term planning.
As for me, I’m done begging Greenwich Republicans to do the right thing, because it’s clear they don’t listen.
But maybe, just maybe, they will listen to R. Derek Black, a former rising star of the white nationalist movement, who has since become an antiracist activist.
“It’s a white person in the room who has the strongest voice to counteract a racist thought. We were aware of that as white nationalists. We were explicitly aware that if you were talking to somebody and you were trying to get them to go from “Those Mexicans” or maybe “The South Side of Chicago is a problem” and get them to escalate to “It’s about race…” the person whose going to ruin that is another white person who’s saying “Stop that,” because it’s equal, they have literal skin in the game, and what they say shuts any sort of white nationalist thing you’re saying down, it stops the room. And that’s the thing people can do…It’s the thing that anyone anywhere can do is speak up because being silent is a choice.”
Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist who has written for Hearst CT and CTNewsJunkie.com. She is the author of 18 books for teens, the latest of which is DEEPFAKE. She teaches writing at Western CT State University and with the Yale Writers’ Workshop.