August 13, 2017
Charlottesville is not a wake-up call. It’s what happens after hitting the snooze button too many times. The tension, the bigotry, and the hate have always been there. More obvious to those it was directed at, but below the surface just enough that the rest of us could ignore it if we chose to.
The “Alt-right” or whatever innocuous euphemism white-nationalists are calling themselves these days marched on Charlottesville, Virginia to “Unite the Right” and protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. I think we’ve all read the stories by now so a summary of events is probably superfluous at this point. So I’ll just dig into some of the thoughts that swirled around in my head through the day.
Point one. “Alt-right” my ass. These people are Nazis. Plan and simple. They can cry “Godwin’s Law” all they want. They can piss and moan that “insults like that further radicalize us.” But when people are walking with Swastika flags, sieging heil with salutes and chanting “Heil Trump!” Well, that’s pretty dictionary definition. When your viewpoint is people of different races should have separate countries, the label “Nazi” is no longer mere “name-calling."
All this started over a Robert E. Lee statue being removed. White-nationalists planned a rally to protest, Anti-fascists showed up to counter-protest, and shit jumped off. I can understand protesting the removal of a statue. However, this is a statue of Robert E. Lee. A general who fought a war to protect his “right” to own other human beings as property.
“It was about more than that!” they cry. “It was about states’ rights.”
“States’ rights to legalize slavery.”
“There were also economic factors…”
“Because the south’s economy was tied to slavery.”
The Confederate constitution reads:
“In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.”
One way of saying this is that “It protects the rights of citizens to own slaves they legally obtained.” However, if this were about states’ rights shouldn’t it be up to each individual state to decide if slavery was to be legal or illegal in said state? It’s effectively mandating that states within the Confederacy legalize slavery. That’s not allowing for “states’ rights.” It’s whitewashed, revisionist history to use the larger umbrella of “states’ rights” as a euphemism so that people can feel less guilty and more self-righteous about flying their flag which, by the way, was never actually the official flag of the Confederacy. And yes, there are statues of our founding fathers, who owned slaves, all over the country. Slavery will always be one of America’s greatest embarrassments. The difference with Lee and the Confederacy is that they fought to keep it.
Trump’s comments about the “hate on many sides” is about as close as he got to condemning the neo-Nazi marchers. But the man wouldn’t want to piss off his base, now would he? Trump pulled a similar stunt when half-heartedly dismissing comments by David Duke (days later). His position seems to be: “If they like me, then I’m okay with them.” But it is also representative of the centrist viewpoint that: “everyone has a right to their opinion, all opinions are valid, let’s have a civil discussion and reach a compromise.”
Yes. Everyone does have right to their opinion. But all opinions are not valid. Robert E. Lee’s opinion was that some people were less than human and it was his right to own them as property. Richard Spencer’s opinion is that white people are superior and America should be a white ethno-centric state. I’m not going to pretend that those opinions are "just as valid" as "people are not property" or "I should be able to marry and raise a child with my Korean girlfriend." And what the hell kind of compromises can we reach with those opinions? Only some races can be property? Some races can stay in America? Here’s the thing: every halfway decent human being, that is to say "every person with a shred of humanity", agreed a long time ago that owning people as property is objectively wrong. And the last time we tried to “have a civil discussion and compromise” with Nazis they invaded half of Europe.
Finally, the white-nationalists showed up with guns, Swastikas, and stars and bars. They marched with torches and looked like a scene from a modern day remake of Frankenstein. I see these photos and what I hear in my head is Ignorant Villager #7 screaming “Kill the monster!” And as it has been pointed out Tiki torches are Polynesian. At first I thought it was kind of ironic. Then I realized it’s pretty much like them marching with trophies of a culture they conquered. Expect they got these "trophies" 2-for-1 at an Ace Hardware. Hell, one drove his car into a crowd, killing one and injuring dozens. A popular MO of terrorists these days. Why would he use terroristic methods?
Oh, right. Because he’s a terrorist. Attacking civilians to instill fear for political or religious reasons is terrorism. By definition.
Some might say, “Hey. The people doing Nazi salutes while carrying Nazi flags, and attacking people… this isn’t everyone. The protest was supposed to be peaceful. Those people are fringe and outliers.” The people who say this are very likely the same people who lumped all Black Lives Matters protesters together with the people smashing Starbucks windows.
Either way, the very idea that opposing these people should be a controversial opinion is disturbing and surreal. This is toad-licking insanity. We fought a war about this shit. A war that is constantly covered in movies and documentaries and on educational television because it was the one war where the goal was clear. It was the one war we can say was objectively about right and wrong without controversy. Nazis are straight up, picture in the dictionary, evil. We settled that. Seventy-plus years ago.
How did we get here?
We always were.
The whistle is blowing. And the pot's boiling over.