The viral video of ANTIFA shouting at an elderly couple, driving the woman to tears, as her and her husband were trying to enter a Conservative Party event in Canada earlier this month initially filled me with rage. The mere sight of two people hiding behind masks, like cowards, yelling at an old lady until she cried was just over the line. There is a difference between voicing your disdain for someone who holds different political views and being a disrespectful punk. The cowards behind the mask, they were the latter. However, it wasn’t just this one event that has painted the ANTIFA movement in a negative light for me, I have a personal event that has permanently tainted the image in my mind of those who call themselves “anti-fascist.”

In 2017, at the tail end of my right-wing nut-job days, Brett Weinstein visited Portland State University and I decided to attend his lecture. Weinstein who was famously forced to resign after claiming that it was tyrannical to force white students off campus during “A Day of Absence” was a figure that intrigued me, and who I saw as a victim of the left-wing campus mob at the time. In hindsight the faux progressive Weinstein was not the hero that the alt-right was looking for, but still his inability to grasp the point of the student protest drew legitimate ire and claims of racism from the left.

Outside of the lecture hall I was confronted by an ANTIFA protestor. I said “please, get out of my way I just want to hear what he has to say.” The masked person called me a fascist and punched me in the face, running away thereafter. I wasn’t pissed that I was punched, I was pissed that this spineless masked coward was so stupid that merely listening to someone who has an opposing point of view invoked a violence response.

Fast forward from 2019, to a few weeks ago on Twitter. I ended up in a multi-tweet argument with a friend who brought up moments from his past where he was chased and physically attacked by skin-heads. He had no issues with the way ANTIFA conducted themselves because they were sticking up for people like him. They were doing what the cops, politicians and communities weren’t doing; they were silencing the Nazis. He longed to be someone like me, privileged to the point that my religion and ethnicity would prevent me from ever experiencing moments of violence and discrimination like he had as a child..

It was that last tweet, that moment of having my privilege massively checked, that led me to begin to see the error of my ways. I began to realize that I never once asked myself, why are the ANTIFA members behaving the way they do? Why do they fail to differentiate between a conservative and a fascist? Until that privilege/reality check I had only been noting that they were violent and that they were seemingly ignorant of the difference between fascism and conservatism.

So, after weeks of reflection, not only of the tweets and criticisms thrown my way but on my time as a rank in file member of the right-wing nutjob club as well, I have come to the conclusion that ANTIFA cannot differentiate between a conservative and a fascist because the conservatives have failed to differentiate themselves from fascists.

Is the desire to have a secure border and know who is coming into your country inherently racist? Absolutely not! However, when you focus your border policies on keeping only those that do not look like you, share your religion, or language like conservatives in both Canada and the United States have done then, you, and your policies are racist. Is being proud of your country and the desire to protect your country a fascist notion? Once again no! However, when conservatives allow their pride to a evolve into a sense of superiority over those who are not a part of “your group,” your nation, then you are a fascist.

There is a thin red line between conservativism and fascism and for the sake of maintaining power in both the United and Canada, conservatives have crossed that line and embraced fascism and racism. No one who is, or like me was, conservative can justifiably demand ANTIFA and members of the movement to differentiate between the conservative and the Nazi when both Nazis and conservatives have acted to oppress and marginalize the poor, the LGNTQIi+, and the migrant in North American society.

ANTIFA isn’t the enemy, it is the natural state of affairs when the poor and the marginalized reach their breaking point. As a former right-wing tea-party nut job, I apologize and ask for forgiveness of my sins. As the human being I am now I tell all members of ANTIFA, keep speaking truth to power. You eventually opened my eyes, and you have successfully silenced many voices of hate. You may not be the wake-up call that conservative society wanted, but you are what we needed.