Char­lottesville: A Riot With An Un­wel­come Les­son

The Jewish Voice - - OP- ED - By: Wes­ley Pru­den (WASH­ING­TON TIMES) Wes­ley Pru­den is ed­i­tor in chief emer­i­tus of The Times.

The me­dia mob wasted no time in de­scend­ing on Char­lottesville, and the first or­der of busi­ness was to ex­ploit the big­otry, tragedy and evil to make it the work of the Repub­li­cans, con­ser­va­tives, and above all, Don­ald Trump.

This has been a pro­ject years in the mak­ing. Shoot­ing con­gress­men by a crazed Demo­cratic lib­eral is re­duced to a foot­note in ac­counts of the shoot­ing, and shoved down the mem­ory hole to be for­got­ten in a day or so. But we can be sure the Char­lottesville riot will be end­lessly ex­ploited over the next sev­eral days and weeks as the white folks’ equiv­a­lent of the rad­i­cal Mus­lim mas­sacres of Paris, Or­lando and San Bernardino.

The coun­ter­demon­stra­tors to a white na­tion­al­ist rally showed up spoil­ing for a fight, but that does not ex­cuse the rally or­ga­niz­ers for what hap­pened, in­clud­ing the as­sault by a par­tic­u­larly thug­gish as­sas­sin driv­ing a car into the crowd. They were fi­nally de­nounced by the pres­i­dent as the “thugs” — the pres­i­dent’s word — they are.

And it’s true that Mr. Trump, whose tweets are not al­ways cal­i­brated to a pres­i­den­tial stan­dard, should have used lan­guage mak­ing it clear to the dens­est among us in his first re­ac­tion to the riot that he was not ex­clud­ing the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis or white na­tion­al­ists from his de­scrip­tion of “evil.”

He fi­nally said ex­plic­itly what he had made clear enough on Satur­day. He “in­cludes white su­prem­a­cists, KKK, neo-Nazis and all ex­trem­ist groups” in his re­marks ex­co­ri­at­ing, de­nounc­ing, cen­sur­ing, blam­ing, up­braid­ing, and knock­ing the evil­do­ers. (Should we get a big­ger the­saurus?)

But what­ever this pres­i­dent would say, his par­ti­san crit­ics and the me­dia were waiting to pick it apart and find it want­ing. He could never say it strong enough. In­deed, in the re­vised re­marks dis­trib­uted by the White House on Sunday an ob­ser­vant critic would note that he did not spell out “Ku Klux Klan,” per­haps in the hope that many peo­ple would not know what the ini­tials KKK ac­tu­ally stand for. Even his ad­jec­tive “evil” has 27 syn­onyms in one the­saurus. Why did he not use all of them? What kind of dog could miss that miss­ing whis­tle?

Martin Luther King’s dream of a day when a man will be judged not by the color of his skin but by the con­tent of his char­ac­ter, has been rel­e­gated to the dust­bin of dis­carded ideals by a mod­ern cul­ture that de­mands that iden­tity pol­i­tics dice and slice Amer­i­cans by race, eth­nic­ity, re­gion, gen­der (even sex) and re­li­gious faith. “Di­ver­sity” is all in al­lo­cat­ing jobs, col­lege ad­mis­sions, even pay. Merit and per­for­mance on the job dare not speak its name.

“A pol­i­tics fix­ated on in­deli­ble dif­fer­ences will in­evitably lead to re­sent­ments that ex­trem­ists can ex­ploit in ugly ways on the right and left,” ob­serves The Wall Street Jour­nal. “The ex­trem­ists were on the right in Char­lottesville, but there have been ex­am­ples on the left in Berke­ley, Oak­land and nu­mer­ous col­lege cam­puses. When Demo­cratic politi­cians can’t even say that ‘all lives mat­ter’ with­out be­ing de­nounced as big­ots, Amer­i­can pol­i­tics has a prob­lem.”

Bernie San­ders was the Demo­cratic politi­cian who learned that painful les­son when he thought he was mak­ing the un­con­tro­ver­sial point that all lives do, in­deed, mat­ter. Who could argue with that? He soon learned, and a day later apol­o­gized with a full grovel, and would have tugged a fore­lock if he still had one.

That’s why this chaos threat­ens never to end for as long as the gen­er­a­tions alive to­day sur­vive. Calls for “unity” sound good and make those call­ing for “unity” feel good about them­selves if not about any­one else. But ex­trem­ists de­fine “unity” to mean unity as when dis­senters and naysay­ers are clubbed into bloody sub­mis­sion. We’ve been diced and sliced be­yond unity and one day soon the Mid­dle East, with its cul­tural and re­li­gious dif­fer­ences and a hun­dred rea­sons to fight and kill each other over ar­cane points of the­ol­ogy that out­siders can­not fathom, will have noth­ing on Amer­ica, where the lib­er­als and the left de­mand unan­i­mous sub­mis­sion as the price of unity.

Soon all the stat­u­ary of Robert E. Lee, rec­og­nized by history and his mil­i­tary peers as Amer­ica’s great­est soldier, will have been pulled down to be­come but chips and chunks of lit­ter across a bro­ken land, re­placed by sor­did icons of a sor­did cul­ture. Still the po­lit­i­cally pi­ous will de­mand sat­is­fac­tion, but sat­is­fac­tion al­ways just out of reach.

The ul­ti­mate les­son of Char­lottesville and all the as­saults on de­cency from ev­ery “side” is that we are the in­her­i­tors of Lin­coln’s ex­cep­tional na­tion who failed to pre­serve it. “A repub­lic, sir,” Ben­jamin Franklin replied when a by­stander in Philadel­phia asked him what the Found­ing Fa­thers had be­queathed on that first Fourth of July. “If you can keep it.”

Soon all the stat­u­ary of Robert E. Lee, rec­og­nized by history and his mil­i­tary peers as Amer­ica’s great­est soldier, will have been pulled down to be­come but chips and chunks of lit­ter across a bro­ken land, re­placed by sor­did icons of a sor­did cul­ture. Still the po­lit­i­cally pi­ous will de­mand sat­is­fac­tion, but sat­is­fac­tion al­ways just out of reach.

Martin Luther King’s dream of a day when a man will be judged not by the color of his skin but by the con­tent of his char­ac­ter, has been rel­e­gated to the dust­bin of dis­carded ideals by a mod­ern cul­ture that de­mands that iden­tity pol­i­tics dice and slice Amer­i­cans by race, eth­nic­ity, re­gion, gen­der (even sex) and re­li­gious faith

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