‘Trump was right’
This past weekend I witnessed firsthand the violence in Charlottesville while I was there for my daughter’s wedding. The protests occurred within two blocks of our hotel. Trump was right to address both sides in his initial comments although he could have more strongly denounced the white supremacists’ views.
Let me be clear: although they have the right to express their views, I find the white supremacists and all that they represent repulsive. Their views have no place in our society. That being said, the Anti-fascist counter-protesters were equally to blame for the violence. Many counter-protesters arrived wearing helmets, carrying sticks and shields, and chanting obscenities at the white supremacists. They carried vulgar placards denouncing the supremacists and the police that they subsequently looked to for protection. They came with first aid volunteers and moved to directly confront the white supremacists. Clearly, the counter protesters came looking to instigate a violent confrontation and share equally in the responsibility for this tragic event.
President Trump was correct in addressing both sides of this sad display. Agree or not, in America everyone has the right to free speech, and to peacefully protest that speech. No one has the right to violently protest, to disrupt independent business and destroy property. The failure to address both sides only leads to further destructive behavior and property damage as witnessed in the days since Charlottesville.
I am aghast. I thought there was nothing that Donald Trump could do that would shock me more than, well, everything else he has done. I was proven wrong. The fact that he has no comprehension of right and wrong as he sits in the world’s most powerful podium is beyond reprehensible. Once again his facts are totally wrong. The Charlottesville counter-demonstrators were at most defensively armed, standing against paramilitary-equipped, heavily-armed thugs. They openly carried semiautomatic rifles and carried many more concealed firearms. This was not “a group on one side and a group on the other” that “came at each other with clubs.”
Will Trump next accuse the American troops who died on Normandy Beach of “violently attacking the other group”? After all, in both cases, “the other group” carried Nazi flags. Were the minutemen who faced British soldiers the “alt-left” of their day? Were the Union forces that fought to maintain the Union committing “an egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence”? Charlottesville was a battle of good versus evil; right against wrong. The world cannot afford for the United States to have a leader who is so deluded he does not know the difference.
Denounce white supremacists
President H. W. Bush did not flinch. The President, who recognized his role as the moral leader of the country, did not equivocate, even though he spoke against a candidate from his own party when he stated flatly that Representative David Duke espoused racist and neo-Nazi views and was unfit for the high office he sought (Governor of Louisiana as a Republican). That was in November 1991.
Now, flash-forward to the past week and the “musing” of our new moral leader, President Trump. Then read J. Peder Zane’s “Trump got it right- there’s intolerance on many sides” (Aug. 16). Mr. Zane says that President Trump’s Saturday statement about evil all around was right and he goes on to write that Trump got it right on Monday when the President singled out “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups.”
Yes indeed, there is hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, but just how much courage does it take to simply state, as President Bush did over a quarter-century ago, that there is no room for the KKK and neo-Nazis in America? Apparently it requires a lot more courage than the 45th president can muster. He can take heart, though, that he has an apologist like Mr. Zane to cover his back.
Don’t ‘multiply evil’
I’m probably among a small percentage of people who were born in Durham and have lived in Durham for many years. My heritage is rooted in Durham and in other parts of the South. There are many parts of that heritage which I hold dear. It is a heritage which is in part represented by a fallen Confederate monument in downtown Durham. One part of my heritage I do not hold dear is the awareness that I had ancestors who had slaves “down east” who worked their farms, and ancestors who were Confederate soldiers.
I recall vividly as a teenager a great uncle, from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, who continued to fight the Civil War up until the day he died. I loved my uncle, but I always felt sad about his Confederate pride and what I considered to be his “ignorance.” He was a lovable man with a racist mentality. My great-great grandfather hid out in a pocosin in Craven County during part of the Civil War, and we don’t know if he did so because he was opposed to the war or because he was a “coward.”
Whatever the case, I live with the painful awareness that part of my heritage comes out of white supremacy. The kind of white supremacy which is again on the rise, so horribly witnessed last week in Charlottesville VA, and that has been greatly fostered by a President who so readily uses language of threats and violence more than that of peaceful diplomacy. A President who won election in part because of white supremacist support.
White supremacists have gained a window of opportunity in what they see as presidential encouragement to raise up the alt-right in violent ways. I deplore the action of the one who used his car as a weapon against those who rallied to denounce the voices and actions of hate groups. At the same time, I encourage those of us who rally against such hatred not to use violent means in response, which includes the tearing down and kicking of the Confederate monument in Durham. While many may agree that it should have come down, we should use diplomacy through non-violent and legislative action in order to bring about such change. “Evil actions against evil multiply evil.” Perhaps we should consider a marker close by such monuments which may allow some “honor” to the heritage of some, while also confessing and condemning the sin which part of our heritage represents.
Mark W. Wethington