|Riot police try to separate demonstrators|
at Saturday's rally. (Reuters)
The president’s evasive remarks after Saturday’s violent protests in Virginia were, to say the least, confusing and, at best, halfhearted. He obviously was hesitant to upset loyal supporters who condone racism and hatred. Though the White House tried to clarify the statements, backlash across the political spectrum mushroomed.
Trump made a weak attempt, on Monday, to capitulate, using more precise words to condemn the right-wing groups that fostered the violence which resulted in one death and several injuries. He said that hatred “has been going on for a long, long time,” and added, “Racism is evil.” Nonetheless, it took him 48 hours to elucidate, demonstrating his steadfast lack of rational judgment.
But, on Tuesday, he reversed course, adamantly defending his original viewpoint and for a second time and blamed both sides for the violence, which undoubtedly bolstered the racist factions, while undermining his legitimacy for the umpteenth time since he took office.
Trump plainly doesn’t comprehend how contradictory it is to similarly condemn protesters and counter protestors at the Charlottesville rally when intolerant hate-mongers encourage the elimination of Blacks and Jews, and counter-demonstrators protest the bigotry.
Republican chickens have come home to roost. It’s past the time when levelheaded members of the GOP aggressively respond to Trump’s reckless tweets and statements and break their restrained silence towards the man they continue to grudgingly support.
Despite party loyalty, silence, in these times, is not golden.
At the center of the Charlottesville chaos is a larger-than-life statue memorializing Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s top general, on a horse, which has stood for almost a century, when Blacks didn’t have input into local government decisions. Some Southerners object to the removal of any symbols that glorify the Old South, which reawaken racist attitudes and centuries of slavery, while broader campaigns strive to rid public places of flags and monuments associated with the Confederacy.
|KKK flyer promoting |
Over the past few years, Charlottesville residents, city officials and several organizations, including the NAACP, have called for the statue’s removal. Similar situations, including renaming public streets and the removal of the Confederate flag in public places, have taken place throughout the South for the last decade.
The right-wing factions shouted, “Take our country back,” while barely denouncing the statue’s displacement. Demonstrators, from the South, obviously ignored the outcome of the rebellion in which their “country” was conquered over 150 years ago.
Some Southerners fail to accept that they were defeated in what they refer to as the Northern War of Aggression, as opposed to the historically accurate, Civil War. The Confederate flag is the symbol of a group of rebellious states and still represents centuries of cruel and inhumane treatment of millions. Therefore, it is unworthy of a place on any government building or public space, as are other symbols, such as monuments dedicated to their heroes.
White supremacists, some of whom were armed, were supposedly there to participate in a “Unite the Right” rally to protest the statue’s planned removal, yet mainly fostered their racist message of hate and anti-Semitic agendas. Among the chants heard at the rally were: “Sieg heil,” “White Lives Matter” and “Jews will not replace us.” The event left one dead and 19 injured.
Fifty years ago, I witnessed Southern inhospitality toward Jews and Blacks. Traveling via train to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for basic training, many draftees on board were young, White Jewish men. Mixed in were group of young Black men. When the train made a brief stop in a rural North Carolina, some of us got off to pick up snacks and soft drinks and headed for a store, adjacent to the rail line, within a short walk.
As we approached the store, we stopped short when we saw a sign posted on its door with these stacked words: “No Niggers No Jews No Dogs.”
More shocked than outraged, we turned around and headed back to the train and were soon followed by the group of Blacks behind us.
We were aware of the burgeoning civil rights movement across the South at the time, but coming face to face with the blatant hatred was startling.
Donald Trump did not orchestrate last weekend’s protests, yet his influence throughout his campaign and brief presidency, has noticeably inspired White supremacists and other racist groups.
For two days, the president was pressured into amending his comments that claimed there was “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” as if there was some moral equivalency between the rally demonstrators and those who showed up to protest them. Such protests have gone on for decades, though it’s fairly evident that the surge in alt-right demonstrations is a result of the election of an unfit candidate.
|Statue at center of protest.|
While Trump has vigorously called for a crackdown on immigrants, who he asserts could be terrorists, he has barely clamped down on homegrown right-wing terrorists who enthusiastically support him. Likely because he tends to concur with their racist, misogynistic, homophobic viewpoints.
Perhaps between endless ranting tweets and an excess of putts, Trump might look closer to home at those who are more of a clear and present danger.
Thanks to First Amendment protection, peaceful protests, regardless of affiliation, will never stop. Nonetheless, the violence incited by them must be condemned — especially by an individual serving as the nation’s leader. Likewise, those who defend the rights of White supremacists and neo-Nazis, must be equally attentive to secure the rights of those who oppose them.
In our time, silence is neither acceptable nor golden.