Time will tell, but we think it very well could be, and, perhaps, should be.
The President’s tone deafness, his grasping for moral equivalence (or immoral equivalence) between the torch-carrying Nazis marching and shouting anti-Semitic slogans, and anti-white supremacists, some of whom were determined to be just as muscular and some, just as unruly, was a demonstration of cluelessness and ignorance unbecoming of any American leader from President of the United States to elementary school student council member.
The neo-Nazi white supremacists marching through the University of Virginia with their well-rehearsed chant, “The Jews will not replace us,” and “Blood and Soil” belong to another time and another place. The Jews certainly will not replace them, nor will decent people anywhere. But we should all abhor them. “Blood and soil” or Blut und Boden (in the late nineteenth-century German original) was embraced by Nazi sympathizer Richard Walther Darré as a theme in his writing espousing eugenics to breed a new master race. The march was a disgrace, period—the Nazi flags a national obscenity.
That the white supremacists had a right and a permit to March is of no consequence. Of course, they had a right to March, just as the President had a right and a moral obligation to condemn what the neo-Nazis stand for without equivocating by emphasizing that the counter demonstrators included some bad actors too. The fact that there may have been bad actors on both sides of the Charlottesville tragedy is of little relevance. Yes, if there were bad actors on either side local law enforcement should have dealt with that. But the President of the United States has no business equivocating about neo-Nazis and other racists.
These neo-Nazis, with all their Nazi paraphernalia, burning torches, and obscene utterances are a throwback to one of the darkest periods in human history. More than 400,000 Americans died fighting what the Nazi’s in Germany stood for and what the neo-Nazis in America stand for. Over sixty million people died worldwide because of Nazi ideology, about 3% of the entire population of the world. Doesn’t President Trump get that? Is anyone fit to be President of the United States if he or she doesn’t get that? We suppose he would justify real third-Reich Nazi excesses by rationalizing that the Nazis sometimes were on the receiving end of muscular, physical push-back during their rise to power.
President Trump justified his two-day bewildering delay in calling out the alt-right Misfits by telling us he likes to get his facts straight before commenting, then commented with his facts as convoluted as ever. Protesting the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee was not the purpose of the alt-right demonstration. It was simply the excuse. We found President Trump’s new-found interest in getting his facts straight all but amusing. President Trump has demonstrated, time and time again, that getting his facts straight has rarely been among his higher priorities.
The Confederate statues that are being taken down from town squares throughout the country are not, for the most part, being removed and destroyed or melted down for scrap. They are generally being relocated, often to museums and cemeteries. They are being removed from places of reverence to places of remembrance. That is appropriate and as it should be.
President Trump’s rhetorical inanities—“should we take down statues of George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson, they were slave owners too, where does it end?” are a national embarrassment. Four of our first five Presidents were Virginians. They were born into a slave culture as were their parents before them. But they were the patriots who gave us America. The men whose statues are being removed from town squares throughout America betrayed America. They were from states that seceded from America, many before President Abraham Lincoln was even sworn into office. We can remember them, as they are part of the history of America, but we shouldn’t revere them.
Mitch Landrieu, Mayor of New Orleans summed up the issue beautifully in a recent speech. We have excerpted portions of his bold and powerful remarks below. We commend them to all Americans, especially to President Trump.
“… New Orleans is truly a city of many nations, a melting pot, a bubbling caldron of many cultures. There is no other place quite like it in the world that so eloquently exemplifies the uniquely American motto: e Pluribus Unum — out of many we are one. But there are also other truths about our city that we must confront. New Orleans was America’s largest slave market: a port where hundreds of thousands of souls were bought, sold and shipped up the Mississippi River to lives of forced labor of misery of rape, of torture. America was the place where nearly 4000 of our fellow citizens were lynched, 540 alone in Louisiana; where the courts enshrined ‘separate but equal’; where Freedom riders coming to New Orleans were beaten to a bloody pulp. So for those self-appointed defenders of history and the monuments, they are eerily silent on what amounts to this historical malfeasance, a lie by omission. There is a difference between remembrance of history and reverence of it.
“…For America and New Orleans, it has been a long, winding road, marked by great tragedy and great triumph. But we cannot be afraid of our truth. As President George W. Bush said at the dedication ceremony for the National Museum of African American History & Culture, “A great nation does not hide its history. It faces its flaws and corrects them.” So today I want to speak about why we chose to remove these four monuments to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, but also how and why this process can move us towards healing and understanding of each other. So, let’s start with the facts.
“…The historic record is clear, the Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This ‘cult’ had one goal — through monuments and through other means — to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity… It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America, They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.
“…Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. He said in his now famous ‘cornerstone speech’ that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
“…This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division and yes with violence…”
President Trump revels in telling us how smart he is. Mayor Mitch Landrieu demonstrates how wise he is.
President Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville tragedy suggests he is neither smart nor wise.
Available at Amazon, Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble and Audible.