Earlier this weekend, thousands of white men gathered in a city that within living memory was racially segregated, for the ostensible purpose of protesting the planned removal of a statute of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
They carried torches when they marched at night. The kind of torches they selected lent a touch of the ridiculous to an otherwise fearful event.
Some who were not carrying torches carried the flags: mostly the Confederate battle standard but there were also a few actual Nazi flags carried and displayed.
— Pinky Slivotitz™❄ (@ACreativeMuggle) August 12, 2017
They chanted a Nazi slogan.
— Ali Özkök (@Ozkok_) August 12, 2017
Some of the marchers carried shields and other regalia of a white nationalist group named Vanguard America.
White nationalists, some waving Confederate flags or chanting Nazi-era slogans, converged on a Charlottesville park https://t.co/djmeRjVWY6
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 12, 2017
Others found ways to display sympathies and admiration for Adolf Hitler.
Some of the protestors came in military-style dress openly carrying guns.
There was hate.
Car that plowed through Charlottesville crowd, killing one, registered to James Fields, 20, of Ohio https://t.co/vMTszybb7i
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) August 13, 2017
There was violence.
Why are JOURNALISTS the only people standing between the Klan and Antifa, Mayor @MikeSigner?
— Rep. Steven Smith 🇺🇸 (@RepStevenSmith) August 13, 2017
There was death.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) August 13, 2017
President Trump — usually quick to express anger and condemn violence perpetrated by other kinds of people — was slow to respond and when he did, I found his statement … tepid.
President Trump condemns Charlottesville violence but doesn’t single out white nationalists for blame https://t.co/d9pCUbz4rj
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) August 12, 2017
I was not the only one unimpressed by the President’s statement.
Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism. https://t.co/PaPNiPPAoW
— Cory Gardner (@SenCoryGardner) August 12, 2017
This is not going away.
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 13, 2017
In some ways, this is not new. There have been white supremacy groups and hateful activism since Reconstruction. Such people have long incited or initiated violence, and used provocative theatrics to magnify their cultural impact beyond their relatively small numbers.
Nevertheless, this feels like these awful events in Charlottesville show that as a nation, we’ve moved past a grim cultural milepost. Not just because an innocent woman is dead, though that is surely awful enough all on its own to give all of us both fright and sorrow. But now we see that the President winks at this dangerous, violent, anti-American white nationalism. Though he can readily find ample venom for comedians and prosecutors and Muslims, he refuses to issue a full-throated condemnation of armed crowds chanting Nazi slogans and carrying the flags of two of our nation’s most formidable historic wartime enemies.
Perhaps the total number of tiki torch Nazis who converged on Charlottesville this weekend was relatively small. Leaving aside the matter that one is too many, they drew the blood of one of our fellow Americans who spoke up against them. They gathered for the purpose of advancing hate and fear, reviving the ugliest parts of our past, celebrating those who committed treason in defense of slavery, and who explicitly call for our nation to transform itself into a recapitulation of possibly the most vile and malicious regime the world has yet seen. And though we may not see hundreds of thousands of tiki torch Nazis just yet, what is different now is that for the first time in our history, the White House is run by men who wink and dog whistle their barely-concealed approval of this sort of thing.
It’s not a hard moral call to at least condemn actual Nazis. Somehow, the President can’t make himself do it. You should be livid about that.
There will be rallies and marches in communities all over the country in the coming days, events where people will gather to reclaim our national ideals of equality, inclusion, and freedom for all. I hope you go to them, as I shall. I hope fervently that they are all peaceful.
Not that I enjoy being dramatic, but these particular demonstrations are important. It is imperative that we show the world what we are really made of, that a mealy-mouthed, half-hearted “violence is bad” is not representative of the American people as a whole. The world is watching. The people who hold political power are watching. Since they will not lead us, it is incumbent upon we the citizens to make manifest our great shared moral aspirations and insist that our leaders not give in to our worst moral impulses.
See you on the streets.
Here’s a statement made by President Trump today, two days after the violence and murder. I’m satisfied with its content and tone. I wish it had come from him spontaneously rather than as a result of political pressure, but I can and will have to live with the chain of events that actually happened. Better this than nothing at all, so, thank you for finally doing what was morally necessary, Mr. President.
And now, we’re back to a place not far where we started. It’s been made clear that Trump’s remarks above were insincere all along, and he got back to being who he really is today. Here’s the complete transcript of today’s utterly bizarre press conference. Once again, we have a President who glides over condemning Nazis, provides moral cover for those allied with them, and goes out of his way to find things of questionable veracity to criticize about the counter-protestors.