By Owen Purdue
The events in Charlottesville, Virginia last month have revealed a deeply troubling change in our country. Since the rise of the -alt-right and the Tea Party before them, we have become more divided as a country. We are more divided than ever in politics, worldviews, and worst of all- in values. As citizens of a liberal democracy, we believe that freedom, equality, due process under the law, the right to prosperity should be available to Americans of all races, creeds, beliefs, and ethnicities. The events in Charlottesville, however, have taught us that not only do those on the alt-right not share these values, they reject them entirely in favor of violence, hatred of minorities, the government, and anyone who stands in their way.
IT’S AN UNPRECEDENTED TIME IN AMERICAN HISTORY
Members of the alt right including Neo-Nazi hate groups, the KKK, and other fringe groups descended on Charlottesville to protest the removal of Confederate statues. Their repugnance reached a fever pitch on August 12 when one man, incensed at the strength and tenacity of those who came to stand against them, slammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. He injured many and killed a woman named Heather Heyer.
Still, despite the horror, Trump failed to adequately condemn them. When Mr. Trump first commented he stated that violence had been initiated “[by] many sides”, and ignored the terrorist attack perpetrated by a Neo-Nazi earlier in the day. Later, he issued a stronger statement, but again chose to walk it back, posing to reporters, “What about the alt-left?”
“A president must preside over our society. His job is to lead, to cajole, to scold, to correct our path, to lift up what is good about us and to absolutely and unequivocally and immediately condemn what is evil in us. And if he does not do that, if he does not preside over our society, then he is not a President.” — Seth Meyers
Statements like this from the President of the United States represent a tragic misunderstanding of his social and moral responsibilities. The President’s duties include more than the operation of the Executive Branch, foreign affairs, or ensuring the passage of important legislation. Presidents must unite the country in times of trouble, division, and darkness. They must draw us together, stand as a shining example of leadership, selflessness, and public service.
Say what you will about George W. Bush, in the weeks after 9/11, former President Bush visited Muslim mosques to stem the overwhelming tide of Islamophobia. After the Charleston shootings, Barack Obama helped to heal us with a rendition of ‘Amazing Grace.’
All of us — from politicians on their bully pulpits to the ordinary citizens — must reach out and seek to have an honest conversation about the issues that stoked the meltdown in Charlottesville and ultimately resulted in the death of Heather Hyer. Furthermore, we must unite against hate, violence, and racism. We need to choose to be intelligent, loving, and understanding of each other and all of our respective struggles. Most importantly, we must not give up hope. Facism and hate have been beaten before, and in the face of united, decent citizens, they will never taste anything but the bitterness of defeat.