In the aftermath of the horribly tragic deaths that have come out of the white supremacist march and counter protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, the county seems to be searching for someone to provide perspective and solace in these troubled times.
What’s needed here, if the Republicans want to remain relevant in this conversation and not be relegated to the sidelines, is for someone with gravitas and eloquence to take on the alt-right and discuss how we deal with difference in a civilized society. Sadly, it seems clear that person is not the President of the United States. Perhaps someone with greater longevity in the party than Trumpcould step to the plate. People like House Speaker Paul Ryan or senators Ted Cruz, Jeff Flake or Marco Rubio come to mind.
What words would they have for a frustrated and grieving America? Here is how I would envision such an address.
I, like you, am saddened and disgusted by the recent acts of violence in Charlottesville, acts that merit a response in part because of the people responsible for them. These people have been dubbed the “alt-right” as if their brand of conservatism is simply a variation of the values that my Republican brothers and sisters enjoy.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
We may share a frustration at the level of intrusion the federal government seems to having in our daily lives and desire to return to a time when that was not the case. We may also agree, like all of you do, that our cultural heritage is important to us. But these, I believe are universal values. We all want a government that does a better job of meeting our needs and gives us the freedom to live our lives as we see fit. We all are proud of where we come from and celebrating the cultural traditions that makes our family different that the one next door but the same as ones across the street and around the world.
However, that is where our similarities end. For while we may both march down the street in pride, we refuse to turn the corner down the dark alley of hate.
The “alt-right” may fancy itself as merely a different flavor of conservatism, but it is a flavor that we cannot accept at the dinner table of American ideas. Some may be hesitant to denounce the racist elements of this movement, but not me.
For within the folds of this movement hides in plain sight a virulent menace the likes of which our grandfather and great-grandfathers in America and Europe fought three-quarters of a century ago across a war-ravaged continent.
This is not mere slander or misunderstanding of a more complex and thereby acceptable movement. One must merely look at their literature or listen to their rhetoric to know what they are. They need to not be sheltered any longer, but exposed to the light of day for hijacking and perverting our core beliefs.
A simple glance at their online presence will prove my point. A note to alt-right backers: if you don’t want people to confuse you with the Nazis, you probably should take down the pictures of Hitler from your blogs.
Beyond the odd reactionary on the internet, the movement, even its more nuanced presentations of its values, is trying to hide its true beliefs. If you listen carefully, the nationalist pride eerily echoes to Adolf Hitler’s 1934 speech to German boys and girls in the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will.
If you look closely at the images coming out of the event, the facts continue to coalese. The nighttime rally of torches, yes torches, near a confederate statue of Robert E. Lee. The symbols of neo-Nazi movement in America found on protesters in Charlottesville. Such pictures should worry us all.
I agree with those who say we need to “call a spade a spade,” that we need to be honest about the racist roots of this movement. Many of the members of this small but loud group cling to the values of those who killed millions through war and death camps. Let’s not lie to ourselves any longer, shall we?
But another thing we should not lie about is that both sides of this event were spoiling for a fight. Now, I don’t mean to say that the actions of the counter-protesters merited the violence brought down upon them. They weren’t asking for the worst that happened that day and the death of the innocent bystander and the two fine law-enforcement officers should properly be laid at the feet of those who instigated this violence. But, by engaging the other side, the tension was escalated and violence ensued. Some of those images I mentioned earlier, and others from that day, will show protesters and counter-protesters using hateful words and provocative actions toward each other.
The protesters were nothing but a hive of angry hornets and, while it was their right to express their views, the words and attitudes of the counter-protesters were wielded like a big stick toward these racist rioters. Dr. Martin Luther King talked a great deal about nonviolence and it is my hope that while our value of free speech allows people to say things we find vile, that we might, in the future, use less confrontational means to combat their speech. Let us all let the fire of their words to die out from lack of oxygen.
As Republicans, it’s a new time for choosing. Ronald Reagan may have been talking about the size and role of government, but today we need to reject the actions of its most hate-filled people and say with one voice, loud and clear, that they are not our own. Our party freed the slaves and ended the Cold War, Dwight D. Eisenhower lead the D-Day invasion and Teddy Roosevelt built the Panama Canal. We are so much better than this.
But beyond the efforts of our own party, our country is bigger and better than this as well. Together we fought two world wars and a Great Depression. We have settled a continent and sent men to the moon. And, as a country united not divided, there is so much more good we can do.
Like I said before, it is a new time for choosing and how we work together to make a nation that our children and grandchildren can be proud of is up to us.