One nation divided under flawed leader
That was not a scene from 1930s Nazi Germany that took place in the streets of Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.
It wasn’t even a scene from the 1950s or ’60s Deep South. Those outcasts wore sheets and white hoods.
That mob carrying tiki torches and chanting “Blood or Soil” and worse in Charlottesville didn’t bother covering their faces. They don’t hide their bigotry. They displayed their hate for all to see.
More than 150 years after waging a Civil War that cost 600,000 American lives in an effort to preserve the Union, we remain divided.
The events in Charlottesville picked at a scab that has festered in this country for a long time.
Making things worse, at a time when the nation desperately needed a president to serve as uniter-in-chief, President Trump chose instead to divide us.
His comment that blame must be shared by “many sides” touched off a firestorm that his staff tried to quell Sunday with a statement – that did not carry the president’s imprimatur – condemning the actions.
Under withering criticism, Trump relented Monday and condemned many of the groups involved in the Charlottesville protest by name, including the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists as “criminals and thugs.” But it only took another 24 hours for himto reverse course.
In a press gathering meant to stress his infrastructure plan, the president, in the words of his own staff, “went rogue,” veering off the script and lashing out at those who criticized his initial reaction to the violence in Charlottesville.
Trump doubled down on his original belief that “both sides” shared blame. He went on to suggest that not everyone taking part in the rally to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate leader Gen. Robert E. Lee was a Nazi or white supremacist. He insisted there were people intent on violence in both camps and also “you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
He suggested the “alt-left,” as he referred to the counter-protesters and an unfair press who were leading the charge to remove symbols of the Confederacy across the South, and wondering if Washington or Jeffer- son were next in line for similar treatment.
There you have it, the gaping wound of racism in America once again laid bare, this time with the commander-in-chief picking away the scab.
Trump no doubt is right when it comes to some blame lying on both sides, and there being good and bad elements of both.
But where he is dead wrong is trying to place those with hate dripping from their lips on equal footing with those who arrived to counter their beliefs.
This is not new ground for Trump. He has consistently rode this troubling element of American society on his path to the White House.
It was evident in his long association with the birther movement, questioning the citizenship of the nation’s first African-American president. He vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border. He flatly suggested a ban on Muslims entering the country. He questioned the impartiality of a Mexican judge.
All of that was redmeat to his base, fueling feelings of resentment, of being overlooked, passed by, ignored by the elites on the two coasts. Trump vowed to “drain the swamp.”
Now he appears to be drowning in it, while the rest of the nation treads water in the battle to deal with hate.
Even those you would think would be his closest allies, big business, this week bailed on the president, unable to reconcile his stance that lent credence to hate, bigotry and antiSemitic bile.
More than 150 years after this nation went to war with itself, shedding the blood of brothers over the issue of slavery, this nation is still dealing with the poison of bigotry.
Only now, emboldened by the White House, it could not be more open. Make no mistake, those tiki torches were an ugly reminder of what this country still has yet to extinguish.
Hate is very much alive. Bigotry has not gone away.
It continues to eat away at society, lying at the root of much of the discord we deal with every day.
And the flames are being fanned by a president who does not seem to understand that his words embolden and offer credence to things that are the antithesis of what makes America great.