Another day watching Trump’s America unfold. A night and day spent watching white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK gather in the thousands to rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a location chosen by the alt-right because the city dared to condemn its Confederate roots. They came from all over the US and marched with torches–confidently yelling slurs and chants filled with vitriol, shouting about taking back THEIR America and getting what they’re entitled to. Echoing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” rhetoric again and again, glorifying a past that never existed in the first place.
Because America was never great, not really. No nation can be truly great while any of its citizens suffer. The most a country can aim for is to be the best it can be for as many of its citizens as is possible. And the best of America was there in Charlottesville too, personified by the teenagers, counter-protestors and first responders who stood up and defended their town/University against unwanted, hate-filled intruders.
The events over Friday and Saturday were appalling to watch but not surprising. Not in Trump’s America. Because this is what Trump has allowed to happen. This is what anyone paying attention saw coming. It’s not just Trump who’s at fault here but with his divisive rhetoric, a platform and campaign based on hate, and his blatant encouragement of an “us and them” mentality toward anyone who isn’t white and Christian and a CIS male, he’s legitimized the simmering hate of the alt-right and created a safe space for that hate to catch fire, grow and thrive. Their movement, their ignorance and their beliefs have been encouraged and even supported by Trump’s lack of consistent condemnation. David Duke even took to Twitter today to remind Trump about something we all know to be true: That he was elected with the overwhelming support of the alt-right and the KKK. If you voted for Trump, if you’re one of many middle class white Americans (male and female) who did, this is who supported him alongside you and what you’re seeing today is a direct consequence of what you voted for. There is no escaping that and there is no escaping the consequences of your vote.
The consequences were clearer than ever yesterday and today at the alt-right rally in Charlottesville, which Vox rightly labelled as a coming-out party for resurgent white nationalism in America. It wasn’t a clandestine, secret meeting…it was a Pride March. The hoods came off, the torches were lit and they marched, with confidence that there would be no consequences for them. Despite the fact that many of them are easily identifiable, they all expect to have jobs Monday morning or to be welcomed back to class. And why not? When the leader of their country won’t come out and condemn them and call them out for what they are–white supremacist and Nazi terrorists–why would they worry? When their President takes to the podium and draws a false equivalency between those fighting for others and for love and those fighting for themselves and for hate–why would they worry about personal consequences?
And just who are these guys anyway? Those who came out to the alt-right rally are not the stereotypical poor, old Southerners that many would like you to think make up the majority of groups like the KKK or Trump’s core supporters. Take a closer look at the appalling pictures of rally attendees. A large portion of them are young, middle class white guys dressed in khakis, polo shirts or tees with their University names proudly emblazoned across the front. You can’t blame poverty or lack of jobs for their anger. These are the same entitled men who still hold most of the power, who have the biggest platform for their beliefs, who continue to have the biggest advantage in all aspects of US society. The neo-Nazi driver of the car that killed one woman–Heather Heyer–and injured 19 more was a 20-year-old white man who travelled to Charlottesville from Ohio. These are sons, fathers, uncles, nephews, classmates and co-workers from across the country. I’ve seen many “hot takes” defending or trying to explain away their behaviour–calling them “disaffected or oppressed youth” or crying that it’s the fault of the left– because if you call someone racist/bigoted enough times, that’s what they become! As someone on Twitter responded: If you call someone a necrophiliac enough times, they don’t tend to become one. Another Tweet pointed out that feminists have been called “Feminazis” for decades now and they have yet to unfurl Nazi flags. Excellent points. Newsflash: If someone calling you a racist made you become racist? You were already a racist. And disaffected/oppressed? These white boys (who wouldn’t know oppression if it came up and bit them in the ass) think the world is out to take away all the things they’re entitled to as white males. Entitled being the important term here. It’s this perceived entitlement that’s the main problem and it’s what holds them totally apart from the ACTUAL disaffected youth of America–be they black, latino, muslim, jewish, female, trans, queer, bi, gay or lesbian! These white nationalists should and need to be held to account for their selfish, hate-filled rhetoric and behaviour. And if they weren’t white and male, it’s no stretch of the imagination to think they already would be by even the highest office in the country. That being said, we’ve seen politicians from left to right condemning them, including the excellent Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. It is possible. As Van Jones stated on CNN today, there is no political downside to condemning white supremacy. So those in government who condone (through speech and through silence) the actions of the alt-right (or compare them to those fighting for justice) also need to be held to account. Trump, Bannon, Pence et al.
Trump’s America isn’t politics as usual…in fact it’s not really politics at all. It isn’t an issue of first amendment rights (which doesn’t allow anyone to incite violence, incidentally) and it isn’t a partisan political issue dividing Republicans or Democrats. It’s bigger and more important than that and stretches beyond the US border. Remember all those times in school when you studied history–be it slavery, the Holocaust, the Civil Rights era, or something else–and you thought to yourself “if I’d been there, I would’ve done something, said something.” We’re there now, folks. The time to do something, say something, is now. Take a stand on the right side of history and combat hate in any way that you can.