Some of my readers have inquired about the lack of a post regarding the events in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12th and the subsequent actions of the president. Some of those inquiries may suggest a confidence that I will be able to successfully address the issue. I’m not sure I share that confidence, but I will try my best to reward it. Others, I believe, are chastising me for not yet contributing in a time when all voices are needed, regardless of eloquence. I do admit to being delinquent in addressing the situation. As so often in the last seven months, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop…and the shoes just kept dropping. Also, the airwaves and the internet have been so full of noise in response to those events that I thought we were covered. I now recognize that more noise is necessary. Those who abhor the precepts of hate must add to the cacophony. Silence on this issue from anyone claiming morality or dignity is not the answer because there is a malevolent force waiting to utilize every unused podium.
In this post I will use the term hate groups to refer to all those that assembled in Charlottesville last weekend to protest the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee . While they may not all have identical agendas, it is clear that the commonality was white supremacy, which is a hateful concept. We are not fooled by those who said their only interest was the preservation of history and heritage. While I may not know the exact reasons that the statue of General Lee was erected in 1924, it is undeniable that confederate statuary and flag have now become thinly disguised symbols for those who believe only white people have value. I will not be using the term Alt Right as I believe that term was devised to sanitize the concept of white supremacy.
Like the rest of the nation, I anxiously awaited the president’s response to the outrageous murder of Heather Heyer and the injuring of 19 others committed by a white supremacist with his car. When the response came (based both on its delayed delivery and its content), I thought it might prove to be the proverbial final straw that would snap the backs of the ignorant and selfish camels who voted for him and have refused to criticize him since. I was wrong.
My anticipation for the awakening of America was revived on Monday when Potus again took the microphone and, while adhering to the teleprompter for a denunciation of specific hate groups by name, delivered the message like a petulant eight-year-old boy being force to read an apology written by his mother. I waited for the republican establishment to rain down “fire and fury”. Again, I was wrong.
I believed the coup de gras had occurred on Tuesday when the man-baby again had the mic and reverted to the “straight shooter” talk that his supporters so cherish, leaving little doubt (even to David Duke), where he stands on persecution based on race, religion or sexual orientation. Some are suggesting that this Hater-in-Chief is not smart enough or calculated enough to orchestrate this lethal nationalism. While I’m inclined to agree, the question is not “who initiated this course?”, but “who is implementing it?” Speaking of which, Potus was flanked during Tuesdays pitiful display by two of his cabinet members: (Jewish) Steven Mnuchin along with (Chinese immigrant and wife of Senator Mitch McConnell) Elaine Chao. I’ve not heard either of them nor (Black) Ben Carson denounce the president for his complicity in or his lack of leadership on this issue. Whatever possessed folk to hitch their wagons (and remain hitched) to such a demagogue remains unclear, but for some light reading the next time they are guests on Air Force One I’d like to recommend Hitler’s Henchmen by Guido Knopp. A few elected Republicans did finally issue their own condemnations of bigotry, but the only current republican official that I’ve heard actually call out the president is Ohio Governor John Kasich. So again, I was wrong.
It has become much more than trite to say that the actions of this president are “unbelievable” or “shocking”. His very election was farcical and his actions and words since his inauguration have been inconceivable to any rational person. Many of us have watched in equal parts horror and incredulity while waiting for the final act that will cause the 62,984,825 voters who unleashed this beast upon our country to cry uncle, to admit they have been duped, to openly demand his ouster. There have been a few who have renounced their support, but opinion polls show that as of last week 79% of declared Republicans still approve of this guy (Gallup Opinion Poll). If those numbers hold, we will know beyond doubt that a very large portion of our fellow citizens either promote hatred or are at least willing to tolerate it in furtherance of their personal economic situations, whether real or aspirational. We will have evidence that the ignorant belief of racial superiority is not just confined to a few disenfranchised individuals on the fringes of society. We will know that many of our friends, neighbors and families either embrace or overlook that ideology.
I want to find solace by trusting that the population embracing that ideology would be smaller than the population overlooking it, but the refusal to acknowledge and denounce evil is possibly more dangerous than the evil itself. Cancer detected early and treated can often be eradicated, or at least forced into remission. Rogue and rapidly growing cells, however, can completely consume the host if ignored, propelling it to a painful and agonizing end.
I do not pretend to understand the fear or loathing that makes aligning oneself with a hate group so appealing, so I can’t propose preventative measures. But once recruited, those members must be denied the validation that they are correct or represent truth. Their words and behavior cannot be supported or encouraged in any way by credible persons and absolutely not by the highest officer in the land.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that these groups must be silenced. As previously mentioned in this weblog, we all enjoy the protection of free speech afforded us by the Bill of Rights. I believe that even misguided bigots possess the right to share their message (if they can find a platform and are prepared for the possible repercussions). It is possible, however, to counter and to muffle their homilies of hate. Those who despise hate also have the right—and the moral responsibility—to exercise their freedom to speak out against such dangerous ideas with whatever means are available to them.
One of my readers provided the following regarding the function of the first amendment, “…stupid ideas will die in the marketplace of ideas and we, as thinking, rational people have an obligation to make it clear which ideas are valuable and which are worthless“. So, to the thinking and rational people of these United States, I ask you to participate in the market place of ideas, make clear what you believe has value and what you believe is worthless—including presidents. I implore you to speak with your physical presence, your pen or your wallet. The survival of our democracy depends on action. And since we cannot rely on appropriate behavior from many of our elected officials nor from millions of our fellow Americans, the rest of us must do it both for and in spite of them.