It takes only seconds to say what is most needful about the planned rally of Nazis, KKK, and white-supremacy hangers-on in Charlottesville, Virginia on 12 August.
The ideology espoused by these groups is vile. It is racist, anti-Semitic, hate-filled, and divisive. It manifests itself in weird symbology and cult-like chants. It is legitimately connected to Adolf Hitler, to persecution of American blacks in the decades after the Civil War, to the Holocaust of the Jews, to state socialism (“Nazi” = “National Socialist”), and to the worst side of the pre-1970s Democratic Party.
The sentiments expressed by the Nazi ralliers in Charlottesville are indefensible and should be roundly condemned.
They also have nothing to do with the conservative right in America, or with the Republican Party or Donald Trump. They emphatically have nothing to do with what America represents, or the soul and spirit that unify the American people.
There are other things to say about Charlottesville, and heaven knows we will hear all of them in the coming days. I’ll address just a few here.
1. We’re still waiting to hear who the driver was, of the vehicle that was rammed into left-wing counter-protesters, killing one and injuring 19 (the latest count I’ve seen).
— Laura Walker ???????????? ???????????????????????????????? (@LauraWalkerKC) August 12, 2017
There was a brief flurry earlier today in which some amateur online sleuths thought they had figured the guy’s identity out. He’s in police custody at this point, so we really don’t have to go to all that trouble. We’ll find out soon enough. But these folks came up with a name, and sent it viral.
It looks like they were wrong, at least from what I can tell. Someone else who appears to own the Ohio-registered Dodge Charger looks like a better candidate. I’m not naming either individual here, because it’s just irresponsible. The first guy whose name was plastered all over social media has already caught enough grief.
For what it’s worth, my bet is that the driver is in fact a white supremacist. We’ll see how that turns out.
Meanwhile, tragically, a responding police helicopter crashed as the event unfolded, and two officers were reportedly killed.
It’s a terrible thing that this event ended in death. (I haven’t seen information on the identity of the victim yet.) There’s a sense of a threshold being crossed, a sense that I think affects most of us, regardless of our political affiliations.
2. That said, the threshold could have been crossed a number of times in the past three years, by Antifa and other radical-left thugs who have shown up around the country with weapons and engaged in destruction and violence, often initiating it against peaceful demonstrators.
President Trump was right about two points he made in his comments on the Charlottesville event today. One, Obama didn’t create this event, and neither did Trump. The point is a warning to both the left and the right to not try to justify excess or violence with complaints about the politics (or the people) we don’t like. It is an essential point, and Trump made it with admirable simplicity.
Two, there is divisive racism and hatred on both sides. Trump condemned both. He was right to. Antifa, and all the other organized radicals who go around insinuating themselves into the candlelight vigils and legitimate, peaceful assemblies of others, are every bit as vicious, extreme, and unacceptable as Nazis and the KKK.
The radical-left agitators don’t get a pass, nor must the event in Charlottesville be used as a pretext for delegitimizing the political right. I ran across a tweet earlier today that captured this point nicely:
— Bill Sanderson (@BanCollectivism) August 12, 2017
If the rioting of thugs in Baltimore was not emblematic of the entire left or the Democratic Party – and it wasn’t – then the torchlight rally and chanting march of Nazis in Charlottesville are not emblematic of the entire right or the Republican Party.
Many radical leftists invoked Obama’s name, as the execrable David Duke and Richard Spencer have invoked Trump’s. That doesn’t mean either president is responsible for what the radicals have done.
Antifa and its fellows in organized radicalism are bad, just as the Nazis and white supremacists are.
This is not a collateral point; it is a primary one. Those who are not willing to make it, and make it because it’s important, and should be the first thing that occurs to them, are at fault. It is profoundly, fatally wrong to be one-sided about this.
3. There’s an understandable tendency to feel a special horror about the apparent reappearance of the symbols and themes Americans reject from our own past. White hoods linked with Confederate flags and flaming torches awaken a sort of tribal-memory revulsion in us. Most of us living today have been taught all our lives to reject what they represent.
These manifestations were never actually evidence of pervasive majority sentiments throughout the nation, and it is well to remember that. But we feel a special responsibility to repudiate them – as we should.
That sense of horror and reaction must not, however, be allowed to confuse us in our choices going forward. There are probably more than two aspects to this point, but I will address just two here.
The first is that our lesser sense of national responsibility for the excesses of avowedly left-wing radicalism must not make us complacent about its dangers. It is not better to be effectively ruled by an Antifa mob than by a Nazi one. Revulsion against Nazis and other white supremacists cannot be an excuse for either silencing the political right, or privileging the antics of whoever claims to be an “anti-fascist.”
I’m a big anti-fascist myself, and one of the best ways you can tell that is that I don’t go around carrying pipes, chains, and mace, beating opponents up in the street, and breaking people’s windows and trying to frighten and intimidate them with noise and horror. Antifa does do that – in fact does so more than Nazis and the KKK have in the United States over the past 40-50 years.
Most Americans are extraordinarily ignorant today about the patterns and methods of Bolshevism, which is the model Antifa and other radical-left groups operate on. We shouldn’t be ignorant, because such groups have been fomenting street chaos here – if somewhat episodically – since the 1920s. But for various reasons, we are. (Immigrants who came here from brutal authoritarian regimes make this point frequently. They are regularly frustrated that Americans don’t seem to see what’s happening when radical-left groups organize to attack the civil order, as they have done over the last century in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America.)
It is imperative that we see this clearly: no “remedy” that proposes to limit or condemn only the white supremacists is a true remedy. It is only a recipe for the one-sided accretion of political power. It will end in the loss of everything we hold dear.
The other aspect of the point is a happier one. It is this: for all the faults of our nation’s current condition, the Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville are not representative of America. This is not who we are – any more than the Molotov-cocktail-throwing rioters in Baltimore, Chicago, Berkeley, or Ferguson are who we are.
Don’t despair about who Americans are. There are a lot of lost people out there, for a number of reasons. But that reality cannot kill the idea and spirit of America. It certainly can’t negate the hearts and consciences of the millions who do their best every day, trying to treat each other right out of a spiritual bounty that is not, and cannot be, dictated to any people, but can only arise from liberty.
Don’t let a drumbeat of bad news drive you to accept “crisis responses” we don’t actually need. The news can be made to look bad very easily. Undoing bad decisions made without due consideration is much harder.
Keep in mind, above all, that just as you don’t buy the white supremacists’ complaint that “inferior” groups are ruining the country, so you should not buy the radical left’s complaint about ever-shifting, poorly defined “privilege” and “-isms” ruining everything between here and the planet Pluto. Both concepts are designed only to perpetuate resentment and unslakeable fury against our fellow human beings. Neither should control the way our laws and government operate. Both will destroy us.