12 August 2017

Violence in Virginia

In Charlottesville VA the city council voted to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee, presumably on the premise that memorials to Confederate soldiers endorse slavery or racism. Alt-right groups saw the move as anti-white and are holding rallies in Charlottesville to protest the statue's removal, chanting the slogan, "You will not replace us." Inevitably, anti-racist groups, no doubt with "antifa" streetfighters in their midst, held counterdemonstrations. Just as inevitably, alt-right and anti-racist groups have been clashing all weekend. This afternoon, a presumed anti-anti-racist escalated the conflict, apparently borrowing from the Islamic terror playbook by deliberately driving his vehicle into a crowd of marching counter-demonstrators, killing one outright and injuring dozens more. The President quickly condemned the act, but his denunciation of "hate" and "bigotry" quickly proved inadequate for many critics. The problem, as they read his tweet, was that Trump had failed, predictably from their perspective, to denounce white supremacism. The President's spokespersons in the news media came to his defense, inferring a self-evident condemnation of white supremacy in Trump's more general comments. The story no doubt can write itself from there. But let's review: Confederate leaders, military or political, should be heroes nowhere in America; white chauvinists or supremacists, however odious their views, have just as much right to demonstrate without getting beat up as any one else with a controversial opinion; no offense committed by antifa or anti-racist groups in general against freedom of speech or assembly justifies an attempted mass murder of the sort that apparently took place today -- this could yet prove a DWI or apolitical road rage incident -- the victims of which may not even have taken part in street fighting. Finally, the President should be given the benefit of the doubt, this time at least, when he says he condemns what happened, when the more Trumpian response, based on some people's estimate of the man, might have been to say nothing at all. It's sad to think that some Americans think that if the President didn't say "white supremacists," he might have been condemning the victims or proposing some moral equivalence of all the weekend's combatants. In any event, white supremacism, if it was a motivating factor at all, was not the sufficient cause of today's atrocity. Neither white supremacists nor the alt-right in general is exclusively responsible for creating an environment in which vehicular homicide looks like the next natural step to take. People on all sides are taking "culture war" all too literally these days, including many who should know better. There's more than enough hate to go around right now -- but of course, no one will admit to it. We could all stand to be more honest about our biases at this moment in history. Candor certainly can't make things much worse.

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