Hopefully this didn’t take too long; as I’m putting the finishing touches on this post, the Charlottesville protests are about a week ago. For reasons that should be obvious, this post is one of my more difficult posts to write. It’s about many “hot” topics. I am using the Wikipedia article on the events as my main source for an account of the event. As with all things on Wikipedia, it may have been changed by the time you read this.
We have reached a point in our history where the symbols of the Confederacy are starting to be seen for what they are: symbols of hate, symbols of racism, and perhaps more importantly, symbols of defeat and failure. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the town of Charlottesville voted to take town a statue of the Confederate war figure Robert E. Lee.
I have no issues with peaceful, nonviolent protests. However, the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, even if it started as a nonviolent protest, was not going to remain such owing to several factors. One, racism and anti-Semitism is a hot-button issue. Waving of Confederate flags and chants such as “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” definitely approaches the line of so-called “fighting words” (as defined by Justice Frank Murphy, “those which by their very utterances inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace”). Some have argued that the Confederate and Nazi flags and symbols stand for, respectively, the enslavement and extermination of large masses of people, and based on that alone would run afoul of the “fighting words” exception to the First Amendment.
The counterprotesters chanted slogans such as “Kill all Nazis” and “punch a Nazi in the mouth.” There is no question these phrases definitely cross the line of “fighting words.” In addition, both the protesters and counter-protesters were carrying firearms, including semi-automatic weapons. It is difficult to say with certainty that the armed protesters and counter-protesters intended this to be a non-violent protest.
Given this, on one hand it’s a good thing that there was no shootout. On the other hand, there were deaths related to the aborted rally: two were from a Virginia State Police helicopter crash, and one was of course Heather Heyer from an auto-pedestrian crash that also non-fatally injured 19 other counter-protesters. Heather’s death in particular was tragic, senseless, and completely unnecessary. This does not imply the deaths of Troopers H. Jay Cullen and Berke M. M. Bates were not tragic–they were, though we do not have the full accident reports from the NTSB yet to better understand how their deaths happened.
As a rule, I condemn violence in protests of this sort. This is definitely not a case where I feel I can make an exception; we are intelligent creatures, not jungle animals, and protests like this are more the sort of thing that jungle animals do.
I can’t keep talking about this without talking about the campaign that elected our current president, who I will only refer to by his initials, DJT. DJT built his campaign on divisiveness and hate, and was elected by a popular minority of the people due to the way the Electoral College is set up. Those of us who voted otherwise watched in horror as the ballots were totalled up. It’s a bit off-topic, so I’m not going to devote pages to this, but to say the least I think DJT winning is the strongest indictment of the Electoral College system to date.
At least the other presidents to win elections despite not winning a popular majority were at least somewhat qualified. Wikipedia’s list of presidents of the US by experience shows DJT as the fifth president to have never held office before being elected president, after Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Taylor won a plurality but not a majority of the popular vote in his first election; Grant, Hoover, and Eisenhower all won the popular vote in their respective first elections. That leaves DJT alone as a president elected with a minority of the popular vote and without holding office before.
While the disaster in Charlottesville was not directly the result of DJT winning the election, I find it difficult to believe it would have happened with anyone else as president, whether that was Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or Daffy Duck. (Yes, I think a cartoon character would be more fit for the office than DJT, but that’s a whole ‘nother rant I’ll have to post later.) It even took a while for DJT to find the right words after Charlottesville; at first he condemned both sides, those protesting against the monuments being taken down who wanted them to remain up, and those counter-protesting against those who wanted the monuments to remain up.
Again, George Santayana’s quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” comes into play. At first glance, DJT clearly doesn’t remember World War II and what happened to Nazi Germany as led by Adolf Hitler. Alternatively, he does remember and just flat out doesn’t care. That in many ways is far worse if it’s true. Either way it’s inexcusable for the leader of a world superpower to fail to immediately and decisively condemn racist, discriminatory, and violent conduct.
DJT needs to accept that part of the blame for the events in Charlottesville falls directly on him and his campaign. At numerous times during the campaign, DJT was compared to none other than Adolf Hitler. I was derided for sharing the comparisons among my Facebook friends, but unfortunately the accuracy of those comparisons is now starting to show. I will more directly address this in a later post.