Our View: The bedrock truths of Charlottesville

Amid the chaos and confusion there were absolutes to take away from the violent weekend in Virginia.

America's moderate middle needs to restore order by first condemning the alt right


For the second year in row, an American summer has exploded in violence that is a disturbing reflection of our national character. Five people have lost their lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and for what? To give vent to demons that won’t go away even after centuries of slavery, a bloody Civil War, an Emancipation Proclamation and a U.S. Civil Rights Act. 

Though the weekend’s events left us disoriented and uncertain, there were still bedrock truths worth observing:

First: White nationalism is unalloyed evil. It is a perversion of American culture that would destroy our way of life.

Second: Each of us has the responsibility to condemn this hatred and reassure Americans of all races and ethnicities that they are our brothers and sisters. 

Third: No one shoulders this obligation more than the president of the United States. When the foot soldiers of racial intolerance occupy an American city in such large numbers, the president must speak explicitly and with thunder against them. 

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Fourth: In this task Donald Trump failed completely. Rather than a clarion call, he emitted an ambiguous grunt, condemning the “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”  

There may have been “many” agendas at play in Virginia, but there was one very old poison that all Americans are taught from their earliest age to recognize and reject.

That the president would not do this at such a critical moment was an historic failure.

Fifth: Even white supremacists have the right to express their vile ideas. One remarkable photo gave voice to this, depicting a black police officer protecting a white protester whose arm was outstretched in Nazi salute.

Sixth: Standing against evil such as white nationalism does not give you the right to resort to violence, carry clubs, provoke and incite racists.

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Some counter-protesters carried banners that read “screw the klan, the confederacy & the cops”. Another used a spray can as flame-thrower against the neo-Nazis.

That is wrong.

The way to answer bad is with good.

Seventh: Former President Barack Obama made this point on Saturday in a clear challenge to the reactionary left. Quoting Nelson Mandela, Obama wrote, “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love."

Finally: None of us wants to live in an America in which the contest of ideas turns to deadly confrontation. Something is twisted in our national character. Anger has boiled up in the last 10 years that is dividing us in ways frightening to contemplate. 

Political passions have always burned high in this country, but generally on the margins. The cool-headed middle of the country, the moderate majority, has always been the ballast that keeps the ship from capsizing. 

As much as ever, the American middle needs to restore order. And we can begin by condemning the people who started this: The despicable purveyors of race hatred. The alt-right.

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