Charlottesville, and Condemning White Nationalists

Normally, I would want to start from the very beginning of an event and work chronologically forward.  This time, I need to go backwards, because I need to get to the important stuff first.

I condemn the behavior of the white nationalists that brought violence and death to Charlottesville.  There are no excuses.  Their behavior and their values are not American.  Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Independent, we should all be united in this stance.

That is the important part.  Some of the rest of this post is going to sound like I’m softening on it, but I’m not.  Do not misunderstand me.  There is no excuse for the behavior of white nationalists, KKK, Nazis, and far right extremists.  They are taking advantage of the freedoms that make this country great.  They are hypocrites of the highest order.  They are reprehensible.

I’m not going to go so far as to wish harm on them, or suggest that they should be rounded up.  I hope those that violated the law were caught, and that they suffer punishment that is suitable to their crimes.  I hope that justice prevails.  They caught the driver that killed at least one person and injured many others.  As for the rest, I hope they learn the value of human life, the depth of the American values that they have taken advantage of, and that they have a change of heart.  I hope they all get what they deserve.

If there had been no violence, we could all be having a different discussion.  It is everyone’s right to peacefully assemble.  If a group of white nationalists want to peacefully assemble and protest, that is their right.  I typed that with the hugest of eye rolls, but it’s true.  The right to demonstrate isn’t granted based on the quality of the people’s argument.

I think that if you’re going to wander around waving flags with swastikas or chant “blood and soil,” you’ve earned the mockery you’re going to receive.  But as an American that believes in his country, I have to support anyone’s right to peacefully gather.  Even if it’s just to display ignorance, and demonstrate how far on the wrong side of history some people have chosen to stand.

It’s also the right of others to counter-protest, as long as no laws are violated and everyone stays safe and sane.

But that’s not how things went down.  And at least one person is dead, and many others are injured.

And this all stemmed from a statue.  A memorial to Robert E. Lee.

Now comes the plot twist to this whole post.  I actually support the idea of preserving the statue.  I’m not in favor of tearing it down.

Whether we like it or not, Robert E. Lee is a part of our nation’s history.  We should remember his name and his role in the civil war.  We should remember what he stood for.  And we should remember that he fought on the wrong side.

Paris still has monuments to Napoleon, a man that crowned himself and formed his own dictatorship.  A man that, once deposed, tried to turn his army on Paris, but his men mutinied.  They still have statues of him, one of which is made from melted down cannons.  France has not forgotten its history, and neither should we.

I would rather be having this kind of conversation about the preservation of history.  I would rather have someone that disagrees with me offer me counter arguments, such as the statue is a source of pain for people of color in the area.  Maybe I’m not being sensitive enough to people that are directly harmed by the statue’s existence.  If that’s the argument… well… my mind can be changed.  Maybe there’s a compromise, such as moving the statue to another location.

That’s not the kind of conversation we can have, though.  Instead, we have to deal with the ramifications of a bunch of racist, close-minded assholes.  We have to take a stand and condemn the acts of evil men.  And in some cases, condemn other people that aren’t fast enough with their own condemnation.

I believe that white supremacists usurped an issue and applied their own agenda.  They took a stage not meant for them, called for the spotlight, made damned fools of themselves, and now we’re forced to talk about them and their idiocy.

But what other choice do we have?