Today the Great Divide that exists in the United States, got even wider. Today, in Charlottesville, Virginia, home of my alma mater, the University of Virginia, at least 3 people died and countless others were injured by a gang of thugs – white supremacists and neo-Nazis.
Who, What, When, Where, Why
A ‘man’ named Jason Kessler organized a rally in Charlottesville called ‘Unite the Right’, a rally that would include white supremacists, KKK members, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee Sculpture from Emancipation Park, a public park. People on both sides of the political aisle are divided on whether confederate monuments should be removed or allowed to stay in public squares and parks, but regardless of anyone’s opinion on that, this rally was wrong. This rally was ostensibly about protesting the removal of the statue, but in reality, this rally was about nothing so much as hate. Hate for those of us who are not white ‘Christians’.
The cast of characters was a veritable “Who’s Who” in the field of white supremacist hate, Richard Spencer and David Duke among them. David Duke stated that the rally was intended to fulfill the “promises of Donald Trump”.
The rally was scheduled for noon, but by 11:00 a.m. there had already been so many outbreaks of uncontrolled violence that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and ordered hundreds of people out of the downtown park. “I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours,” McAuliffe said.
Counter protestors included members of the clergy, Black Lives Matter, and prominent Princeton professor Cornel West. Men in combat gear — some wearing bicycle and motorcycle helmets and carrying clubs and sticks and makeshift shields — fought each other in the downtown streets beginning on Friday night. Both sides sprayed each other with chemical irritants and plastic bottles were hurled through the air.
After police managed to clear the park, a large group of counter-protestors was moving up Fourth Street, near the mall, when a gray sports car came down the road and accelerated, mowing down several people and hurling at least two in the air. Details are not confirmed as of this writing, but it is said that the car plowed into the crowd, backed up and rammed forwards again at least once.
At least one person was killed in this incident, and at least 19 injured. The driver of the car was 20-year-old James Fields from Ohio. I do not have many more details at this time, though I am certain more will be available in the coming days. I do know that Fields was arrested on charges of second-degree murder.
Governor McAuliffe gave a press conference in the afternoon, saying “I have a message for all the white supremacists and Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you’re patriots, but you are anything but a patriot. You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. But my message is clear: We are stronger than you.”
“Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry.” – Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan
“The hate and bigotry witnessed in #Charlottesville does not reflect American values. I wholeheartedly oppose their actions.” – Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion… People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love… …For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela, quoted by President Barack Obama
“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets [sic] come together as one! Am in Bedminster for meetings & press conference on V.A. & all that we have done, and are doing, to make it better-but Charlottesville sad!” – Donald Trump
In his later press conference, Trump said he condemned “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides,” repeating the last phrase twice.
Many, including this writer, felt Trump’s words were inadequate, that he should have voiced condemnation of white supremacy and its followers. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said, “The violence, chaos, and apparent loss of life in Charlottesville is not the fault of ‘many sides.’ It is racists and white supremacists. lawmakers, including members of his own party.”
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden criticized the president’s remarks in even stronger terms, saying, “What happened in Charlottesville is domestic terrorism. The President’s words only serve to offer cover for heinous acts.”
“I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.” – David Duke, former imperial wizard of the KKK
My take? If the driver of the car that maliciously mowed down a crowd of people had been of Middle-Eastern descent, a Muslim, Donald Trump would have been screaming “TERRORISM!!!” at the top of his lungs, and shamelessly using this terrible tragedy to spread fear and justify his hateful Muslim ban.
I will likely address this in more depth at a later date, when more information is available, when the dust has had a chance to settle a bit, and when feelings are not so raw. In closing, I would like to share the reaction of my friend Bruce, a long time conservative republican Christian minister, and a genuine, decent human being:
“I’m a white, conservative, Christian American, and I denounce the hatred and racism demonstrated at UVA, as well as other previous expressions that I have, until this moment, been too timid to denounce. There is nothing “right” about it; it’s not Christian, nor is it conservative, and it is absolutely not American. To my Christian friends who want to “whitewash” this as simple free speech or as some kind of evidence of frustration at political correctness or the condition of our country: keep it to yourself, reread the Bible, repent, and, if necessary, unfriend me here.”
Well spoken, my friend … I am proud of you.
Tonight, our nation is more divided than it was this morning. The causes for this will be picked apart, analyzed and reported on at great length in the coming days, but in this writer’s opinion, there is only one cause: arrogance. The arrogance of those who believe that somehow having pale skin, believing in the rules and rituals of the Christian doctrine, make them superior to the rest of us.
Tonight my heart breaks not only for the good people of Charlottesville, Virginia, but for each and every one of us who find ourselves living in this country that we no longer recognize.