By Will Brown
The American carnage was supposed to stop.
This weekend in Virginia was the latest evidence that it has not. It’s easy to condemn the remarks and beliefs of the white nationalists who marched through the University of Virginia’s campus on Friday night and protested in the streets of Charlottesville on Saturday.
The challenge from the last 72 hours is identifying and highlighting the people who turn a blind eye to the fungus that has been festering in online petri dishes and in living rooms for decades.
Three people are dead and countless others are injured because not enough of us are willing to admit that there are still too many of us who would rather celebrate traitors than respect neighbors.
Considering, the University of Virginia was founded by a man who was equal parts rapist, idealist and hypocrite none of us should be too surprised the bucolic city that housed his university became Ground Zero for American carnage.
(If the idea that a woman who was owned by the author of the Declaration of Independence, is not enough to convince you that consent was not a word in Jefferson’s vocabulary, do us all a favor and ignore your next request to sit on a jury.)
Clearly, common sense is not common.
Jefferson is famous for writing: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
What he meant to say was: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all white, land-owning men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Christian Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of only their happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among straight, white, cisgendered men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed to do as they please. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to watch us alter or abolish it, and institute a new government laying its foundation on such principles that are to the benefit of those of us who make the laws and organizing its powers though influencing our politicians in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
Our lack of independent thinking is what leads people to champion causes in which they know next to nothing about. When we choose to blindly imbibe on information, we have no idea whether we are being poisoned until we swallow — and by then it’s too late.
Hating the blacks, ostracizing the gays, objectifying the women, deporting the Hispanics and ignoring the Asians may appear to be the zeitgeist of 2017. It’s not, too many people believe those groups have banded together to eliminate the dominance of white men in America. Of course that is a falsehood—but it’s easier to characterize anyone who pokes holes into the suffocating rhetoric is labeled fake news.
We hate what we do not understand.
Long before America spoke bigly, but acted falsely, when it came to equality it was a reality in other cultures and civilizations. But, America is a Christian nation unlike any ever created in the history of the world. Our exceptionalism means that while we’re taught to lean not unto our own understanding, we do it anyway and use our Lord’s name in vain to commit atrocities that are the antithesis of the savior who has been dubbed the Prince of Peace.
He who occupies the White House — because it cannot possibly be a she, that would be uncivilized — is far from the best moral compass from this country. President Trump is not the first clueless person to occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He is the only one who has shown how bereft of thought he is in real time.
When The Daily Stormer, the official publication of Neo-Nazis, takes no exception to a statement released in response to a KKK protest, there should be little argument that while our 45th president promised that “we are one nation – and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny,” those are only words and they can be reneged upon at any time.
The protests began because Charlottesville had the gall to consider removing a statue of Robert E. Lee.
The name of the event may have been “Unite the Right” but anyone with sense should know that the ghouls who marched have as much to do with the American right as James Hodgkinson is a representative of the American left.
That said, Virginians need to know who Lee was. They need to know he was a native son of the commonwealth, who was considered a brilliant military tactician, but someone who led an uprising and eventually lost.
If a tale from American history can be told with a happy ending, chances are it’s not being told properly. Statues, monuments, schools and even universities that are named after traitors like Lee, Jefferson Davis, Nathan Bedford Forrest and others should not necessarily be torn down; but, they should serve as a beacon for ensuring future generations do not make similar mistakes.
The stains of America’s peculiar institution will not go away if we ignore it. We must accept our past, learn from it and not repeat it.
For the same reason Virginians should know who Lee was, Floridians need to be reminded that Andrew Jackson was not only America’s seventh president — and, for now, the face of the $20 bill — but a genocidal general who forcibly removed people from their ancestral lands.
Earlier this year New Orleans removed statutes devoted to Confederate leaders. The Crescent City was not only one of the largest ports in the United States, but one of — if not the biggest —slave markets in the country.
The city proved to be a vital cog in the Confederacy losing The Civil War. Once the Union took over the port in 1862, it was able to suffocate the South and prevent the sale of cotton, tobacco and other products that would have financed the traitor’s fanciful cause.
We need to know this history.
The antebellum period was not idyllic, it was the calm before the storm. Reconstruction ended after less than a decade for a reason. African-Americans did not have a monopoly on being on the receiving end of exclusion in the 19th century, as evidenced by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. There are countless other examples, through the years that are hiding in plain sight in our history books.
Educating ourselves is only part of the solution. Distancing ourselves from white nationalists is another.
The Chaos in Charlottesville is a clarion call for a challenge all of us must take seriously if we are to wipe away the stains of America’s original sin.
We must challenge our families, our friends, our classmates and our colleagues when they say an exclusionary joke. We must admit to ourselves that privilege exists in this country and the easiest way to eradicate it is to shine a tiki torch into the crevices that allows it fester. We must trust our neighbors even if they live, pray and love in a way that differs from us.
If it were easy, we would have done it by now.