August 26, 2017
Hate is on the rise in America and our President is doing little to stop it. Frankly his tepid condemnation only serves to encourage it.
It’s now been two weeks since the horrific events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Two weeks allows commentators like me the time to take a deeper look at the situation, to look beyond the headlines and sensationalism and place the information on the scales of analysis.
The U.S. doesn’t keep good data on hate crimes so it’s hard to paint an accurate picture of just how much racism and anti-semitism there is but I think most people would agree that if there is any it is too much. According to Slate white supremacist and white nationalist activity is on the rise, from more aggressive recruiting online, to active organizing and intimidation on college campuses. Law enforcement officials in cities such as New York have seen a surge in reported hate crimes, and the Southern Poverty Law Center reports an increase in the number of hate groups.
To some of you this swastika has little meaning. You might know it had something to do with world war two but not much beyond that. To Jews it means 6,000,000 murders of their friends and relatives. Six million murdered because—they were Jewish. To them that swastika is the most offensive, vile and repulsive sign there is. It should be to all the rest of us, too.
An equal number of Americans might see this picture and vaguely remember it had something to do with racism before the civil war. They would be wrong. It had a lot to do with it and it still exists. To the great majority of African Americans, Jews and others, that picture and the association with the confederate flag represents the murder of an untold number of their ancestors. Lynchings, shootings, burnings, bombings, rapes and beatings were doled out with impunity and the law looked the other way. If you wonder why Jews and Blacks react so negatively to these pictures and symbols now you know. They are more vile than the worst pornography, more offensive than the most graphic horror movies. Jews and blacks are not making these things up, they are real and they are still happening. But it’s not only those two groups who are being victimized, It is women, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Muslims and more. Anyone with a skin color different than that of the white supremacists or a religion that differs from their brand of Christianity is a target for those who believe that only White Christians should have any right to live. And women? Women are sub-human. They have no rights and are nothing more than baby machines according to these haters. Those are the people who marched on Charlottesville two weeks ago, those are the people responsible for killing a young woman by running a car into a crowd, those are the people who have been emboldened and are flexing their muscles more every day. They are the people who proudly fly the confederate flag as a symbol of the south they would like to return to. The stars and bars of the confederacy has been hijacked by hate. Originally it stood for a society that enshrined slavery and that’s reason enough to dislike it but the Nazis and their fellow travelers have taken it to a new low because now it stands for state approved murder of blacks,Jews, homosexuals and several others. Just the sight of that banner sends shivers down the spines of many a minority because it threatens the lives of their friends and loved ones. Try to adopt the historical horror experienced by African Americans or Jews for just a minute and you might begin to understand.
Recently in his third iteration of a statement about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump said that not all the people in the Nazi, KKK and White Supremacist demonstration were bad people. “Some,” he said, “Are very fine people.” Let’s be clear. There is no evidence, none whatsoever that any of them were “very fine people.” Here’s the truth, the real story.
At first blush the story was fairly straightforward. The city planned to take down a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee and relocate it. In the south one can expect that such a decision will cause some disagreement and that was certainly true in Charlottesville. But — the protesters who filed for a permit to demonstrate against the action weren’t your everyday “The south will rise again” peaceful demonstrators. This time it was a mixture of white supremacists from the alt right, the American Nazis, the Ku KIux Klan, the White Nationalists and a few more.
While the story was published and broadcast locally, most of the rest of the nation was not aware of the statue issue or the hate groups or the scheduled protest until they saw the violence on TV. But don’t be fooled, these cowardly haters didn’t just materialize like a genie out of a jar. Neither the demonstration nor the violence were spontaneous acts. It was all planned, choreographed like a Broadway musical. This demonstration had been planned and publicized for some time. Certainly everyone in Charlottesville knew it was coming, they knew its purpose and they knew who the sponsors were. It had long been promoted as a “Unite the Right’ White Nationalist Rally.” It is hard to believe that any thinking, “fine” human being would innocently join the rally totally unaware of the Nazi, White Supremacist and KKK literature, signage and chants.
The group’s names clearly identify who they are and what they believe. There were about a thousand of them dressed appropriately for their role in the coming melee. Some were armed and some carried banners and signs proclaiming “White Power.” Other signs were anti-Jew, anti-black, anti-immigrant and sexist. They chanted Nazi themes like “Blood and Soil” and Si Heil”, sang Nazi Songs and hurled hateful, obscene epithets at the crowd surrounding them. Upon seeing the group there could be no doubt of their intentions and of their leanings so the President’s comment that there were some “fine” people involved is a reflection of what he wanted to believe, not what reality revealed. “Fine people don’t participate in such demonstrations.
Some protesters who came for the “Unite the Right” rally were armed with guns and clubs and other assorted weapons. Many were dressed in military-like clothing, while others wore shirts with Nazi symbols and quotes from Adolf Hitler. One shirt said, “Diversity is just a genocidal scam.”
The events in Charlottesville, Virginia are not only sad, they are discouraging because the frequency of hate demonstrations seems to be increasing. These haters are emboldened by two forces, one of them is a small but very vocal part of our society that creates and actively spreads hatred and includes the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. The other influence is a much larger segment of the population that opposes the haters but rarely confronts them because they, “don’t want to get involved.” Yes, the haters are despicable human beings, but those of us who allow it to happen without challenging them must share some responsibility as well. You cannot proudly say, “I am not a racist,” yet shrink into the background when given the opportunity to fight it. Telling your friends you are not a racist is easy, it takes courage to tell a racist you disapprove of his or her behavior. We must all speak up. If you oppose hate, it’s time you made yourself heard.
Racism, hatred and intolerance have always been part of America and for a time it appeared as though the hate groups might be losing influence but a familiar face and name jump started the disease when Donald J. Trump and his overtly racist “Birther” movement claimed Barrack Obama should not be President because he was not born in the United States. For five years Trump canvased the country spreading the “birther” lie, five years of promoting racism. The White House put the issue to rest when they released Obama’s birth certificate which proved Trump wrong. On September 16, 2016 Donald Trump finally publicly admitted that President Obama was born in the U.S.
When people of power and influence spread racist lies those lies live long after they have been proven wrong and even today there are still people who believe what Trump said. Our first African American President was the subject of a vicious racial attack from a man who has since proven himself to be either a racist or a very serious sympathizer.
If Trump wants to save his presidency, and it is doubtful that he can, he should immediately tell the racists, sexists and other haters that he doesn’t want their support, doesn’t agree with their agenda and will continually condemn them. And – he can’t say it just once. That language is going to have to become part of a long-term communication effort.
But – let’s be realistic. It isn’t going to happen. He made it perfectly clear twice that he wants everyone involved in the violence to share the blame. He fails to recognize that it was a Nazi who killed a woman and it was Nazis who came armed with various weapons fully prepared to physically harm people. It is the Nazis and their followers who glorify the holocaust and support a return to slavery. The conclusion, then, is inescapable. When a President who is supposed to unite us under ideals that value diversity and free expression, refuses to condemn racism then he is a racist. The Pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a stark reminder of President Trump’s true character. He may on ocassion say the right words, but his actions almost always make the words a mockery.
Now we learn that besides firing Steve Bannon, one of the architects of Trump’s racist policies, the President also fired Sebastian Gorka a man with alleged Nazi ties. Some might find comfort in that news. I don’t. The problem is at the top. It is Trump who sets the tone. It is the President who signs the orders and makes the policy. It is Trump who enables and emboldens those who demonstrate, kill and maim. It is Trump who commands the airwaves, and makes the news, It is Trump who tweets outrageous comments in the night. It is Trump who just pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio and therefore it is Trump who is clearly communicating his own intollerance, racism and sexism. It is Trump who turns a blind eye towards the perpetrators of hate by saying many sides share the blame — many sides.
Upon watching the shameless display of hate and violence in Charlottesville, I am left with one simple question, why? What do the Nazi’s and others seek to accomplish by these demonstrations of hate? The answer is all too obvious. Hate begets hate, violence and dissension. That’s what they hope to accomplish. They want to keep ripping and tearing at the fabric of America so that neighbor is against neighbor and brother opposes sister. They seek to cause society to be so unruly and so violence prone that only the installation of an American Fuhrer and the resulting suspension of civil rights can bring law and order back to our society. That’s what they want. But the law and order they seek is based on hate, not on justice.
Who are these haters that fly Nazi flags and salute Adolph Hitler. These ultra-right or alt-right radicals are mostly separate groups of ignorant bullies whose cannot survive civilized debate so instead they choose hatred, violence and the threat of violence. They are mostly uneducated gorillas whose entire political philosophy is made up of simple sounding slogans and sound bites. Theirs is a world of thuggery. When they can’t have their way they don’t negotiate they gather up clubs, boards, guns, signs with offensive slogans and seek to eliminate their opposition. They ignore, of course, that those they seek to exclude are every bit as American as they are. These terrible Jews, African Americans, Muslims and others are ironically, the same people who work hard to pay the taxes that allow the haters to have clean air, water, law enforcement, superhighways, schools and all the rights they seek to deny to others.
True patriots don’t attack fellow citizens because of the color of their skin, their country of origin, their religion or their sexual preference. True patriots understand the strength of diversity, when they see disagreement they negotiate, they encourage debate, support the right to free expression and condemn in no uncertain terms anyone who proposes that one race, one religion or one gender is superior to another.
We live in trying times. Never has this country needed leadership more than it does right now. We need a President who speaks out against evil, who stands up for the values that carried us through world wars, depressions, recessions, assassinations and natural disasters. We need someone who offers hope, a brighter future, equality for everyone, equal opportunity, respect, honor, dignity, integrity, honesty. Instead we have a President who doesn’t even know the meaning of those words.
Once upon a time that very same White House fought against slavery and for civil rights, equality and free expression but the new occupants have a different view they would seek to repeal those ideals that caused us to become a beacon of hope to opressed people everywhere. We have a president who is quick to anger, blames others for his own failures, trusts no one, lacks knowledge, ignores his own experts and gets his intelligence information from TV. The nation is confused and has nowhere to look for direction. Our President should be encouraging, inspiring and comforting us. Instead he comforts our enemies, offends our friends and continually disappoints us in times of national crisis. He is rude, fowl-mouthed and inarticulate and when he can’t have his way he responds with tweet tantrums.
A lot of good people voted for Donald Trump. They wanted to be recognized, to be given a break, to have good jobs and to be respected. Slowly they are recognizing that the tough talking “I’m for the little guy” candidate was only interested in himself and that he would say or do anything to get votes. Millions voted in good faith for the man they thought really cared about them. Now they are seeing his duplicity, lies, contradictions, reversals and inability to govern. Slowly we are all seeing the emergence of the dark forces that were behind his campaign. Evil people that would send us spinning back to the days of Colored and White drinking fountains when discrimination was legal, intolerance was the norm and violence against minorities and women was acceptable behavior.
When demonstrators chant Nazi phrases, carry signs proclaiming white superiority, and advocate for the Ku Klux Klan one doesn’t need a study group to determine their motivation. Anyone who does not condemn hate and the violence that attends it is as much a part of the problem as those who carry the signs and swing the clubs.
President Trump’s condemnation was a tepid attempt at best. The President did not single out white supremacism as did almost every other elected official from both parties, rather he mentioned them and then added that others shared in the blame or as he said, “many sides,” and then he who won’t read a briefing paper suggested that he would have to “Study” the demonstration. Study? The guy who hires people to study for him and boil it down to one-liners wants to Study? What’s to study? It doesn’t take study to know that the President’s equivocating on who is to blame in Charlottesville gives the hate mongers tacit approval to continue their behavior and they are already taking full advantage of it. Many of their leaders like David Duke are publicly thanking the President for his comments.
Trump’s reluctance to confront enemies is beyond ones ability to comprehend. To me it is an inescapable conclusion that when you refuse to condemn evil you are in fact endorsing it. You don’t need any more proof of his endorsement of violence and illegal activity than to remember his undying loyalty to Vladimir Putin. It is with that same loyalty that Trump refuses to criticize the alt right or the hate groups. Mr. Trump has not only allowed, but has recruited aides who echo many of the Al-right hate messages. His acquiescence and even encouragement has allowed the “alt-right” agenda to gain steam.
Racism and intolerance are taught, we are not born hating anyone. We are taught to hate by people ignorant of the truth, who have not bothered to discover it. Ignorance is the birthplace of evil. Many take pride in ignorance and seek to glorify it, they lambaste education and the educated and believe that being “Street smart,” is all the education they need. The result is what we witnessed in Charlottesville. I think we are better than that.
And from where I sit, that’s the truth