In a time of political unrest and rising nationalism, it seems the whole world is facing an existential question: Who are we? What do we stand for?
There are no clear answers, but courageous moments across the globe to take heart from.
The latest example of love in the face of hate came this week from the Czech Republic. In a telling photo, a young girl scout stands her ground in the face of a clearly agitated neo-Nazi.
Photo: Vladimír Čičmanec
The scout was part of a counter protest to a neo-Nazi demonstration that has been taking place in the city of Brno for the last few years. The movement, organized by the extremist Workers’ Youth party, aims to protest the city’s influx of foreign workers. But “the real aim is to intimidate members of the country’s largest minority,” wrote one commentator.
While the neo-Nazi protests have been an unpleasant spectacle in Brno for years, this year they took on particular relevance. “Today, ultra-right ideas are not just being shouted by groups of people marching through the streets of Brno,” wrote the organizer of the counter protest on Facebook. “Fascist opinions are becoming a dangerous part of mainstream society.”
The anti-fascist group, dubbed Brno Blocks, called on residents to come up with creative, peaceful forms of protest and highlight their efforts on social media using the tag #brnonehajluje (“Brno does not salute Nazis”).
The girl scout in the photo, 16-year-old Lucie Myslíková, made a sign that says, “We will raise your children.” The iconic photo of Lucie staring down the Nazi has garnered thousands of likes on Facebook.
Lucie is not the only woman meeting bigotry with bravery. Just last month a similar photo went viral when Saffiyah Khan, a half-Pakistani, half-Bosnian British citizen, stared down a far-right protester in Birmingham, England. Khan had come to the aid of a Muslim woman in a hijab who was being harassed by members of the far-right English Defense League.
Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire/AP Images
And last year in Sweden, lone protester Tess Aplund raised a fist of resistance to far-right marchers from the Nordic Resistance Movement.
“We live in a Europe where far-right ideas are becoming more popular, and there is also a reaction against them,” said Daniel Poohl, editor of anti-racist magazine Expo. “It is a time when people are longing for something to channel their urge to resist the Europe that builds borders against refugees, the Europe that cannot cooperate anymore. Tess has captured one of the conflicts of our time.”
Photo: TT News Agency/Press Association Images
There’s something striking about the women in these photographs that have captured our global consciousness — an unflinching, almost radical calm in the face of hatred.
The visual elements of Lucie’s photo speak pointedly to our cultural moment. On one side — riot gear, dark uniforms, popped veins, a frustration you can hear with no sound. And on the other — bubbles floating by on the breeze, a steady gaze and half a smile, sunlight continuing to shine.