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It bothers me when I hear people talk about short-time former members of far-right extremism like they have no authenticity. That they are not aware of what the movement was about. That they don’t know what they are talking about. That they could be of no help. I don’t understand this mentality. You don’t go to a military veteran that was only in for a short time and say they don’t know what they’re talking about. Or someone that was in a cult that they don’t know what they’re talking about. So why do it to former extremists, especially when they come out of something brutal and want to tell the world what they know? Why do it to people who just want to be useful to bring about peace?
I understand that most people naturally gravitate toward long-time members. I absolutely understand why. They are the ones who were in for years, they are full-time experts on far-right extremism. I never claimed to be an expert. I know that I’m not. I’m just aware of what I know and dealt with being in the movement. I want to tell my story to the world and let people gain what knowledge that they can from that and use it to battle hate and develop a better sense of compassion at the same time. I want it to connect people.
I am a full believer in the fact that short-timers are valuable and have a story to tell. I’ve said it before, even the smallest worker bee can create the hive-mind. You can’t have an army with just a few people. There are things I’ve seen, done and know that I’m positive that can help people. Maybe not a lot, but I know it can help some. Ironically, a lot of the people that will invalidate short-timers will also be the same ones to say in honest shock that they can’t believe people really embrace these ideologies. Well yeah, when people are broken they gravitate toward extremist groups because they are vulnerable and want to feel included in something. And then when they are trying to move toward positive change and you reject them, they feel even more worthless than they felt before or sometimes tragically get re-radicalized.
People don’t understand how easily they can do more damage than good to people who’ve been in extremist despite how long they've been in. Don’t you want to see racism and violence end? Don’t you want to see peace happen? Then welcome those that might even have the smallest amount of experience so we can progress as a country. Let's move forward instead of remaining in ignorance. Let's learn from our mistakes already. There are so many people that I see that go on different forums under anonymous accounts, wanting to tell people what they know in AMAs. However instead of attracting the naturally curious, the people who believe they know all of the things come forth. One of the very first things that gets said every single time to these formers is either “I don’t think you really believed in these things” or “I don’t think you were ever a nationalist,” as if they lived that experience with them.
But how do you think that you can make those assumptions?
Especially when someone is trying to open up to you and the world?
Taking that step to reveal to the world that they were once a former white nationalist is a huge step. It takes a lot of courage to admit that you weren't the victim—but the villain. They want to do good and you want to immediately and constantly shut them down. Not every former nationalist is in the movement for a long time. Something or someone helps them change their views. This movement, as I’ve said before on my podcast and to other people, would have been my life to this day if there weren't people that challenged the way I thought. It doesn’t dismiss what I know and what I’ve been through. I have a story to tell and so do many others. Welcome us in so we can be heard and so we can help.