With quotes by Adolf Hitler emblazoned on tee shirts, remnants of Nazi regalia, chants of “Jew will not replace us,” and Confederate flags held aloft throughout the crowd in Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrations by white nationalists against the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee coldly conjured the apparition of the Jim Crow-era American South — and then events turned deadly.
A 32-year-old woman lost her life and 26 others suffered injuries, some grievous, when a car allegedly driven by James Alex Fields, 20, sped purposefully into a crowd of protesters at a high rate of speed on Saturday — literally knocking people out of their shoes and sending them airborne — in what vocal critics, alluding to previous attacks in Europe, termed an act of terrorism.
To reiterate, an (alleged) white nationalist targeted and ran over protesters, killing one of them — after Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a sweeping state of emergency, and after, according to the state’s ACLU chapter, police were told to stand down and wait for commands to intervene — providing the both the perfect storm and the perfect excuse to clear the permitted protesters and others from the area.
Seething hatred and vitriol from both sides — white nationalists and neo-Nazis affronted by perceived slights of the system, and their strident anti-racist opposition — fomented into a lethal mixture, the result of which veritably cements yet further losses of freedom for all.
The prospect of lost liberties aside, Charlottesville — in mere hours — exposed the nastiest iterations of racism minorities have opined for decades without recourse, rebranded again, but no different in substance, than a legion of hard-right socialist malefactors unworthy of mention, but whose insignia donned the sleeves of attendees, unabashed.
Any harbored illusions of unity in the United States undoubtedly fell away Saturday — and with all signs blaring the warning another civil war could break out, it’s imperative to examine how this division hurts every side of this fracas — to the perpetual benefit of the kakistocracy masquerading as our government.
A procession of politicians, including President Trump, all condemned the targeted attack and called for a return to peace and rationality at the ordinarily quiet home to the University of Virginia. Yet, none have stepped forward to call the homicide by vehicle — so reminiscent of attacks by the Islamic State in Paris and Berlin — as a terrorist act.
Considering the pandemonium resulting from the planned demonstration and opposition, the events at Charlottesville — which would otherwise go down in the annals of history as fatal, inexcusable mismanagement by officials — provide the ideal political climate for the dextrous application of dissent-quashing domestic policy.
More government surveillance, further restrictions against free assembly and demonstration, toughening of restrictions on firearms, and increased scrutiny and censorship of social media, among other nefarious actions, seem inevitably bound to surface in the halls of Congress.
Politicians — too detached from constituents and slavish to fundraising, when they do work, to find a legislative spine before Charlottesville — suddenly rush to castigate the supposed white nationalist attacker as an anomalous lone wolf, ignoring the climate fostering such malice and the vociferous counter-protest warning of it for the past year or more.
Indeed, a fastidiously-maintained blind spot ensures the State can not only continue governing despite vituperative quarreling among the people, but flourish. What law enforcement or spy agency doesn’t drool at the prospect one group of people will demand censure, restriction, and opprobrious labeling of another as a threat — since, ultimately, a program officially enacted bears the same authority of force over them both, no matter which ruler tightens the reins.
If policy even finds paper in time.
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That racism finally stripped itself of pretense in Charlottesville and brutalized its opponents into the hospital and grave before law enforcement would stir itself into enforcing the law — as well as the flaccid response from Trump, the non-branding of terrorism, and jaw-dropping disparities in policing versus during predominantly Black protests — should not have come as a shock.
Black Americans have made plain for decades the extent and influence racism still exerts over the system of governance in this country, mostly to deaf and dismissive ears — perhaps, until this weekend — while a parallel resurgence of white nationalism crept in obtrusively under the monikered guise of the Alt Right.
This isn’t to farcically pin systemic racism exclusively on the backs of attendees of the largest white nationalist rally in more than a decade; nor is it to say these beliefs are held by every person of either race — but things are getting hairy. Quickly.
Much blame has been assigned over Charlottesville, but none so detrimental as the fingers pointed beforehand by everyone at everyone else, other than the government — which bears the brunt of culpability in stoking the racial divide through partisan politics and baiting the general public into believing the lie that changes would be made to benefit all.
Consider, for a moment, that the truest source of oppression — the perpetrator of stratification and breeder of strife — has a vested interest in our waging war against one another.
“When a citizenry no longer feels that it can find justice through the organs of power,” writes Chris Hedges in Wages of Rebellion, “when it feels that the organs of power are the enemies of freedom and economic advancement, it makes war on those organs … The longer citizens are locked out of and abused by systems of power the more these systems become targets.”
Civil war, to the establishment, means no possibility of a revolutionary one.
Without debate, racism should never find comfort among a people considering themselves advanced; but if the pitchforks and fury are solely directed at the racists — whose behavior, in fact, amounts to a mere symptom of a morally reprehensible system based on force — they will never extricate the bigoted root.
We’re one sour word away from an avoidable civil conflict — but it requires we cease validating malicious and bad ideas. Rationalizing brought us unchecked bigotry and a reality show host as president, as well as rumors of civil war.
Had the masses remained oblivious before Saturday to depth and scope of pain this nation still endures, the last words of the victim, now identified as Heather Heyer, citing an activist axiom in a post to social media, should leave no doubt:
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”
Are you paying attention?