A United States private military contractor stationed in Afghanistan was recently discharged for wearing white supremacist memorabilia on the battlefield, according to a Sept. 25 Huffington Post article. His version of white supremacy was a new brand, at least to me. Abdicating the organization’s hoods, tiki torches and chants of “blood and soil,” he instead brandished a green-colored ‘Kekistan’ flag for Pepe the Frog. A quick overview: Kekistan is a fictional country born in 4chan chat rooms and its flag is a symbol of unity for misogynists, white supremacists and many alt-right thinkers. Though this contractor did not act in a vacuum, his actions were an expression of a subversive culture within the U.S. which speaks to an underlying untruth in our characterization of the troops.
Last Monday, three members of the Brandeis administration stood before a town hall of students, professors, faculty, staff and alumni of Brandeis University to discuss the investigation of basketball coach Brian Meehan, in the wake of an April 5 Deadspin article that revealed numerous derogatory practices. This town hall’s efficacy was as dubious as any town hall, but it has opened the floor to a nuanced discussion about what Brandeis stands for and the value of diverse voices on campus.
The immediate controversy drawn was to the racial context, given that James is an African American professional athlete, and Ingraham is a white woman. This debate, regardless of its propensity to incite indignation, is ultimately tangential to the core issue that is besieging American discourse from all sides. There is an underlying lack of empathy and compassion in any contemporary debate.