Last week I read an article titled "Parents, your kids are at risk from hate group outreach", an opinion piece by Peggy Drexler. It basically discusses the anguish a mother is undergoing due to hate group influence on her white teenage boys. This influence is primarily accomplished online (naturally), by alt-right hate groups via interactive games and links to music videos. Now I do have a son, but he is well past his teenage years, so I found the piece somewhat alarming but did not dwell on it. Now I see there was a "Nazi Emergency" declared in Dresden, Germany and someone put up a Nazi flag in a Michigan elementary school. So what is this persistent infatuation with such a reprehensible ideology?
When I was in the fifth grade I remember watching those various World War II movies. The German uniforms looked cool...to an eleven year old. What did I know? Not long after I read a book on Babi-Yar. In fact our teacher may have had us read it. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Babi-Yar is near Kiev, in modern Ukraine. The Wehrmacht massacred over 33,000 Jews...in two days. Well, any fascination I may have had with German uniforms...or any interest in their ideology...vanished. I am not suggesting we require students to read about the holocaust, but then again, maybe not a bad idea.
A need to belong...to this?
I don't like to profile, but I am going to do it anyway. These groups target, and are attractive to, male, mostly white (but not all), 15-25 year olds. Whether they are alt-right hate groups, neo-Nazi's, Incels (Involuntary Celibates...yes this is a thing...a subculture of self-pitying misogynsts), they appeal to someone searching for acceptance...or perhaps share their self-loathing with. I guess the French Foreign Legion...or a book club....or volunteer work doesn't cut it. I would say this; parents, if your kids are putting up Nazi paraphernalia in their bedrooms, it is not "a phase". If they talk and joke with each other using racist stereotypes, it is not "boys will be boys". It would be unfortunate for any parent to have to deal with something like this, but would suggest it be dealt with quickly.
So the answer is...?
Yes...we do need to worry about this. Extremism of any kind is anathema to democracy. It should not be tolerated, encouraged or laughed about. It needs to be addressed. Americans get riled up over Muslim extremists, but homegrown domestic hate groups are probably the bigger threat to our democracy. Unfortunately, not sure a lot of folks in the current administration would agree.