I have watched and read incessantly for the past few days. Like many, I would guess, my emotions pinball from grief to rage to just nausea. This is America in 2017. White supremacists, bearing Nazi flags, armed for a fight, rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend. Violence erupted. People were injured. One woman was killed by a terrorist deliberately driving his car into a crowd. This is America.
Watching all this, delving into it, can not be good for me, but I’m not going to turn away. Now is not the time to look away, even for our individual mental health.
These racist terrorists, I’ll use the word even if our president won’t, chanted things such as, “Fuck you, F*ggot,” and “Jews won’t replace us.” They carried swastikas and yelled, “Heil Trump.” They claim to want to “take back their country.” That is why we should not look away. This is our country. It isn’t theirs. They carry symbols of evil we, as a nation, fought against. They ignore or outright oppose substantial portions of the constitution that defines what we as Americans are. That makes them far less worthy of citizenship than any of the groups they despise.
Our president won’t denounce them. He chooses to spread the blame. There are “many sides.” “There are good people on both sides.” The logic is utterly lacking. The equivalent would be that WWII happened because there was more than one side. If America had not opposed Nazi Germany, there wouldn’t have been a war. He compares George Washington and Robert E. Lee. This is our president. Beyond the moral vacuum required to defend Nazis, and anything less than condemnation from the presidency is defense, does he lack the critical thinking skills to differentiate Washington and Lee? Or is he pandering to the most base among us? Psst, Mr. President, typically the only reason one goes to a racist rally is because…they’re racist. When the only people applauding your response are the Nazis, you’re probably doing it wrong. This is why we can not look away.
These Nazis, these white supremacists, these ethnic cleansers are emboldened. They came from all over the country to proudly unite in Virginia. They’re not just from “some other place.” They are our neighbors and our colleagues. This is America in 2017. We have always struggled with racism. After this weekend, we have to accept that just getting to the debate of white privilege would be progress. Instead, we’re back at defending the rights of people of color, certain religions, and sexual orientations just to exist peacefully and safely in America. This is why we can not look away.
What fascinates me is how cowardly these “patriotic warriors” are. When many were outed on social media, they quickly tucked tail and played victim or denial. They don’t want to be exposed for what they are. That leads to the obvious question of how do they justify their beliefs if they’re embarrassed by them? I find it even more telling when they chant, “(Insert minority group here) won’t replace us.” They’re so cowardly that they can’t compete? This is the master race they so want to be? The reality they don’t get is that if their dreams came true and there were no people of color, no Jews, no gays, and no Muslims in America, and women stayed at home, there would still be a ranking. Any group can be ranked from best to worst. Among the homogenous white, male, heterosexual, Christian utopia they long for, where do they think they’d rank? They’d still be the bottom feeders, and they would have to find new scapegoats to blame.
We can not look away. We have to be informed. We have to be vigilant. Our president condones these people. These people are empowered. As unpleasant as it is, we have to once again look in the harsh mirror and see that this is us.