August 12, 2017 — Something terrible happened today in our country, in the university town of Charlottesville, Virginia. In times like these, we await our leaders for comfort, direction, explanation and possible condemnation.
George W. Bush stood in the middle of “The Pile” after 9/11 and shouted to the world. Ronald Reagan eloquently read the poem “High Flyer” at the memorial for the Challenger astronauts. Both men brought us together at a terrible time.
Today our President needed to comfort, direct, explain, and condemn. And he equivocated.
I wondered before our President spoke if he would call out the evil we’ve seen in Charlottesville over the last 24 hours. Before the violence of today, unmasked white men walked the streets of the Virginia town with torches. This is not your grandfather’s KKK.
The President of the United States faced a moral test this afternoon. Would he call out evil? Would he whitewash is something born of racism and bigotry?
He failed the test. In his statement, the President of all the people of the United States and territories (including Guam) chose to use the old false equivalency notion, citing an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
Here’s a portion of what he said (quote from CNN) “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides,” Trump said in a short statement from his private golf club in New Jersey. “It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America.”
What he says is the worst of false equivalency. What does our President mean “many sides?” What is the other side of racism and bigotry?
If you are still reading this, do you know what David Duke said today? Do you know who David Duke is? Here’s what the former KKK leader said in Charlottesville this morning to open the “Unite the Right” rally.
“This represents a turning point for the people of this country,” said Duke in a video uploaded to Twitter by Indianapolis Star photojournalist Mykal McEldowney. “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he said, he’s going to take our country back. That’s what we gotta do.”
Duke wants to “take our country back.” Hmmm. Maybe we should give all of it to the native Americans who were here first.
Our President has to speak out against this. His silence is complicity.
Our silence is complicity. My silence is complicity. Your silence is complicity.
People tell me all the time, “I’m just not interested in politics.” The white supremacist movement is not politics. It is terrorism. This is our shared country, we all get to live here. He who does not learn from history is condemned to repeat it, and we are watching the repeat of some awful parts of our history. It is 2017, years and years and years past the time of Jim Crow. I was seven years old when LBJ signed the civil rights legislation. Today our country seemed as eaten up by racism and bigotry as it did when I was a child. But, perhaps because of my privilege, I’m just noticing it more? What is your story?
You need to be interested in Charlottesville and racism because it continues to tear our country apart. If you are a white person, you likely did not experience the horrors of the Jim Crow era. Of course, some white people marched with Dr. King and worked on civil rights, but for most of us, it is pictured in a history book. If you are white, even if you are poor you are a person of privilege because of the color of your skin. Don’t believe me. Try to hail a cab in a major city and watch what happens.
It took me awhile to understand what white privilege is about and get it through my thick head that it doesn’t mean owning a nice car. It is about the color of your skin. Let me say that again; it is about the color of your skin. If you are not brown, you don’t know.
I’ve told this story before, but my co-worker has been stopped three times in six months on the same rural road I use every day. Stopped for what, you ask? I think you know. Have I not been stopped because I’m such a good driver? I think not. We are, however, people of privilege, descended from white Europeans who came to this country as immigrants for the opportunities here. We did not come in the bottom of slave ships. We were not First Families, original Americans who day by day, year by year, century by century lost native lands.
We must all condemn racism and bigotry. John Pavlovitz is one of my heroes, and his words are far more eloquent than mine. Read his piece today and come back here.
The violence today is horrible, and the intent of the event was even worse.
We must speak out against the bigotry. We must not equivocate the counter-protesters with men who showed up armed, in helmets and carrying shields. Ask yourself again: what does that say about intent?
This morning on television I saw a line of counter-protestors, all men, and women of the clergy, men, and women representing all faiths are also represented in our country. What courage these people showed.
We are black and white, Hindu and Muslim, Baptist and Catholic, atheist and deist, and lovely shades of brown and pillars of spirituality. We are Americans, a crazy melting pot that still offers the great opportunity and potential.
- What can we do? We can stop bigotry when we hear it. In our homes, in our classrooms, in our work spaces.
- We can support the brave law enforcement officers who fight these battles every day.
- We can make sure we stay informed and read all that we can about the facts of a situation.
- We can teach our children that “love is love is love.” Early today I posted a song on Facebook from “South Pacific.” “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” reminds us that we have to learn how to hate, “before we are six, or seven, or eight.” What have you taught your children, or your nieces or nephews, or other children in your life?
- We can stand up those who spew hate and call it something else, like an opposing opinion.
I didn’t just fall off the turnip trucks; my parents taught me the difference between good and evil and right and wrong. None of us is perfect, but we can learn from our errors and make improvements.
The KKK, the neo-Nazis, and the white supremacists represent intentions of pure evil. How can anyone, let alone the President of the United States, not condemn them?