My first thought on seeing the pictures from Charlottesville last Saturday was incredulity this was happening in America in 2017. My second was sadness seeing the injured in the streets. This all changed to fury after listening to President Trump speak about the incident and condemning the violence on ‘many sides.’ The outrageousness of equating those who are being abused, discriminated against, beaten and attacked with the white supremacists spewing their hate. We should never have to wait two days and have to embarrass the president into speaking truth to evil.
There is this feeling of having an out-of-body experience when a country, my country, is the place this collection of abominations including the KKK, Neo-Nazis and every conceivable hate group could come together under the banner of the alt-right and demonstrate their hate boldly and openly. Even at its height, and it may be ascendant again today, its members wore hoods to hide their identities. These white supremacists/nationalists felt comfortable in Donald Trump’s America to openly show their ugly souls and pasty white faces.
We live in a nation whose president refuses to condemn these groups by name because he understands they elected him. When Hillary Clinton called them “deplorable” she was castigated. Now we know her words weren’t strong enough. These uneducated bigots, racists, sexists, and anti-Semites are disgusting and a disgrace to humanity. Our president is the biggest disgrace of all because he won’t condemn them. In fact, he has hired some of their spokespersons and enablers. Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka are now among the lowlifes advising him and apparently writing his scripts.
David Gergen remarked every recent president since Eisenhower has had the decency to call out hate. From Eisenhower sending troops to Little Rock, Ark., to allow African-American students into a school; Kennedy calling Coretta Scott King when her husband was jailed and then inviting Martin Luther King, Jr. to the White House; to Lyndon Johnson brought up in the segregated South fighting to pass the 1964-65 civil rights legislation. Now we have a president who can’t even bring himself to call out white supremacists who spew hatred in Charlottesville. Who won’t affirm his opposition to David Duke even after hearing him say “We are going to fulfill the promise of Donald Trump.”
We have always known these uneducated people exist in our country. But as a whole in recent years our society has stood for telling them their racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic thoughts are unacceptable.
Then the Trump campaign changed all that. He embraced the alt-right as his way to the White House. His bellicose rhetoric gave them permission to come out of the closet and be the disgusting people they are in broad daylight. We are now reaping what he sowed and it is getting close to impossible to put that genie back in the bottle. Unless Trump does something fast to change the direction he is heading he will go down in history not only as the worst president but as the biggest pig and enabler of hate ever to occupy the office.
It has been suggested a start to changing the direction of his administration would be to fire Bannon, Miller and Gorka. He must also show he understands he is the president of all the people and pledge to defend them from terrorism, both from within and without. There is no other name than home-grown terrorist for the vile excuse for a man who rammed his car into those innocent people standing strong in Charlottesville for the principles of equality, fairness and decency in America against the demonstrators of the alt-right.
Is there much hope for Trump to do this or to do anything where an ounce of decency can be detected; no there isn’t. At one time I would have hoped Jared and Ivanka would be able to intervene but have long since given up all hope for that. They are the Jews this alt-right group spewed their hatred against and yet her father refuses to condemn them. Can’t imagine what must be going through their minds to see his silence in the face of this. But silent he is. They should remind him that silence=death.
I am an optimist and must believe America will survive this as we have survived so much more. One can only pledge to stand with friends, especially those who are people of color who continue to suffer from this hatred in ways I can never fully comprehend. But as a Jew whose grandparents were killed in Auschwitz, and a gay man, I pledge never to remain silent in the face of racism, hatred and bigotry and to fight until common decency, fairness, and equality is what the America I love will be known for.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.