Opinion: How I became a ‘Nazi sympathizer’ in Berkeley

My experience at the Aug. 27 rally revealed to me that the political left suffers from the exact same malady that afflicts the right. We won’t listen.

I am a Mexican-American who nationalized about eight years ago. I am happy to be in the Bay Area, where my political views and my aspirations for social equality fit in perfectly.

I have pretty much been a career lefty all my life: I marched in Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill every weekend during the Bush presidency to oppose the Iraq war. I taught English as a second language for many years to better the lot of Mexican-Americans in the U.S. I have raised my 12-year-old daughter to think for herself, to question anyone who would do her thinking for her. But, to my great shame, I am a Nazi sympathizer.

Sadly, I came to find this out this last weekend, when I attended the anti-right-wing protests in San Francisco and Berkeley (the weekend of Aug. 26 and 27). These were mounted to oppose the rallies organized by the Patriot Prayer group.

I arrived at Berkeley’s Crescent lawn, which is part of the UC Berkeley campus, at around noon. People were excited, there was an air of expectation. No one knew if the Nazis would show. The group had cancelled its San Francisco appearance Saturday, but had promised to show up in Berkeley on Sunday.

I started taking pictures right away. I am an amateur photographer. I am a great admirer of those who have visually documented history for us. At one point, a man was herded by a group of people linked arm in arm, towards a contingent of police officers. Clearly, he had been identified as an opponent. I began snapping pictures.

A young woman in her 20s, who had been deputized by undisclosed authorities to informally police and report on those who she found troublesome, confronted me. In an aggressive tone she told me to stop taking pictures. I tried to reason with her. I did. I tried to establish a dialogue. I tried to explain to her that we were on the same side and that I was simply taking pictures. She was having no part of it. She quickly communicated to her confederates nearby that she needed help containing me. In less time than it takes to say “No Trump, No KKK” I was facing a group of five very determined people, linked arm in arm, who on the basis of this woman’s word had decided that I was the enemy.

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” they chanted, and began herding me away. The faces of the onlookers were a revelation. They were in complete agreement. “Nazis out! Nazis out!” they chanted. I was a Nazi sympathizer, or else why would I be in such a predicament? I saw looks of disgust on their faces as I backed up, all the while trying to explain myself to anyone who would listen. No one was listening. I had been labeled. As I was backing up, I bumped into a young man wearing a bandana across his face, black pants and combat boots, with his arms crossed on his chest. He couldn’t have been more than 20. “You should get out of here,” he said sternly, blocking my way…

I was reeling from the realization that I was now the object of scorn, one of the pod people. It was surreal. I became angry, I told him to fuck off. I turned my back to my persecutors, wedged myself between their ranks, and began to chant along with them “Shame, Shame, Shame.” It was ridiculous. I was hurt. I won’t get into the blow by blow (no blows were exchanged — I am a pacifist at heart). They eventually disengaged from me.

I realize now that we (the political left) suffer from the exact same malady that afflicts the right. We won’t listen. We have a herd mentality. We are eager to attack. We won’t search for the truth. On the basis of someone’s characterizations, we all showed up this weekend to vent our anger at the Trump administration.

As a result of my encounter, I wound up at the Ivy Room on San Pablo. I nursed several Sapphire tonics and took in an excellent rendition of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots on piano by a talented lady whose name I didn’t catch.

I was dismayed. I am dismayed. Not by the performance — it was moving. I half-drunkenly picked up my cellphone, googled Patriot Prayer and listened to Joey Gibson’s poorly explained “mission statement.” He is not bright. He is not articulate. Listen to it. Gibson was attacked during the rally. He was pepper-sprayed — not by the police, but by the “good guys.” The guys on my side…

I encourage all left-leaning, intellectually independent-minded people, all the descendants of the hippy movement, all liberals to engage from here on out in actively evaluating those groups who are presented to them as objects of scorn, of derision, of narrow-mindedness. Political opinion and social justice are part of a spectrum. We need to understand this. There should be no “you’re either with us or you’re agin’ us.” I do not support Patriot Prayer. I do not support the antifa. I do not support the Trump administration.

I do not support a sheep mentality.

Disappointed in my tribe

Manuel Rodriguez is a pseudonym for the author who lives on the Berkeley-Albany border and who attended the rally against hate in Berkeley on Sunday, Aug. 27. He is known to Berkeleyside. We are making an exception to our commenting policy and giving the author anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject and due to the habit of some extremists to "dox" online those who express opinions they disagree with.