I have some things I want to say about the weekend’s events with the “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville, Virginia…but it’s mixed in with some other stuff, so bear with me…
Content Note: alt-right, Andrew Anglin, Charlottesville, David Duke, Donald Trump, Jason Kessler, Protest, Racism, Terrorism
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It’s important to me to be fair. I like to try, to the greatest extent possible, to see all sides of the story.
It’s been important to me not only to comment on how Donald Trump and his statements and policies violate the rights of others, but how attitudes toward:
have been ugly and at times hypocritical as well. Not because I like him – I don’t like Donald Trump at all. But because Donald Trump and the people around him have rights, too.
I feel like I’ve been fair.
But I’ve decided after this weekend that this blog won’t be a space anymore where Trump his administration get protective space. I started leaning that way after his tweet in July about barring transgender people from the military. I see now that he’s pursuing that course of action and I just…don’t want writing a defense of Trump in light of legitimately problematic ways that he and his administration are talked about (like falling back on sexism to criticize Kellyanne Conway) to be mistaken for support for Trump’s policies and how he conducts himself as President.
I’m especially resolved on that decision after his response to the “Unite the Right” protest.
Trump’s Response to the “Unite the Right” is Unacceptable
On Saturday, Trump said:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”
It’s hard to know where to start, especially since Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert was (badly) defending the statement on Sunday.
And good for the GOP who are breaking rank and letting the President know that his statement was unacceptable. Credit where it’s due.
Andrew Anglin, a prolific neo-Nazi with a large following, had this to say about Trump’s speech:
“Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate… on both sides! So he implied the antifa are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all. He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
Something that the White House should consider, perhaps.
As for what I need to say on all this…
The Alt-Right Can Believe Offensive Things If It Chooses
I’m not disputing the “Unite the Right” protesters’ right to gather and protest the removal of General Lee’s statue, any more than I dispute the right of the people to counter-protest “Unite the Right.” Not because I believe in what “Unite the Right” stands for, by any means. I think that the alt-right’s beliefs are disgusting and their justifications for those beliefs are ridiculous. I think that it’s pathetic that the removal of a Confederate statue got the movement so riled up. But just because I (and most of America) doesn’t agree with them doesn’t take away their right to peaceful protest. If I’d believed for a second that the “Unite the Right” protesters had actually come with legal, peaceful protest in mind, I wouldn’t have been so concerned when I heard that the protest was in the works.
But, as we all know now (and I think we all suspected), “Unite the Right” wasn’t intended to be just a peaceful protest of a statue’s removal. Marching onto a university campus at night with torches, yelling racist statements, isn’t peaceful – it’s a terrifying act of intimidation and violence.
And that was Friday night; the official “Unite the Right” protest didn’t even begin until Saturday.
Peaceful protest was never the intent.
And I’m aware that the counter-protesters were violent as well. Earlier today, “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler was escorted away by police from where he tried to speak at the protest, after being shouted down by the crowd and being pushed and tackled. I’m not going to defend assaulting Kessler. Violence isn’t appropriate, period. It doesn’t get anyone anywhere, and creates an atmosphere where everyone is unsafe.
However, those that are criticizing the counter-protesters for being violent need to acknowledge that the alt-right folks set the tone for the weekend on Friday night when they terrorized the UVA campus.
Their antics that night may not have legally been terrorism, but they were certainly an act of terror in spirit, escalated the next day by an act that was clearly domestic terrorism – and because of it 19 people were injured and a woman, Heather Heyer, is dead.
As Jake Tapper said to Tom Bossert: “How many people did the counter-protesters kill?”
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Donald Trump Owes America More Than What He’s Been Giving It
Donald Trump refuses to call these things out for what they are or give any compelling argument that he’s committed to making America a place where all people truly are equal, and that makes me sick – because he’s the President, and even if the “Unite the Right” protesters had sat cross-legged in a park in silent meditation all weekend, he still shouldn’t be behind what they believe, or what any group whose philosophy involves restricting the rights of Americans based on race, sex, religion, sexual preference, gender identification, or disability believes.
And he should be prepared to say so clearly and definitively. When David Duke says about the President, “We’re doing this in your name,” a President who truly believes in an America where everyone is equal says, “Stop. Immediately. I don’t want to be associated with what you, your beliefs, or what you do.”
Duke, on what “Unite the Right” represents to him:
“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believe in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
I fear for a country whose President won’t denounce hate. And I don’t want my blog to be a place where he gets anything that can be construed as defence anymore. I’ll be thinking very carefully about what I write about Trump in the future.
I feel like I need to make my allegiances clearer… and that I owe my American friends more than what I’ve been giving them.
I know that none of this is much help to a country that’s frightened and grieving and feeling very divided – but it’s what this Canadian has to give today.
And maybe this, because Trae Crowder always nails it…*foul language – NSFW*