Ran in the August 16-22, 2017 edition of the Fauquier Times and on Fauquier.com
Let’s make no bones about it. We saw evil this weekend. Using the mask of a debate over Civil War statues, supremacists and hate groups took to the streets in Charlottesville to advance a racist and anti-Semitic agenda.
For the moment, that debate over the monuments is a moot point. The argument that these neo-Nazis were simply giving voice to one point of view in the question over what those statues represent doesn’t wash when they march down the street chanting “Sieg Heil.”
Last weekend was a wake-up call. It has reminded us that as far as we have come as a nation, there is a long way to go.
- Click here for full coverage of the events in Charlottesville
And when the dust settles we will be left in the aftermath trying to figure out how to deal with what has happened. A young woman lies dead, a young man charged with her murder and facing other counts for using an automobile as a weapon against rally protesters, 19 of whom were also injured. Two state troopers assisting officers on the scene were killed in the line of duty when their helicopter crashed. One of them, Trooper Berke M.M. Bates, grew up in Nokesville.
Horrific. Reprehensible. Tragic. And awful though these events were, we must be prepared for more before our journey is over.
We have been reminded in the starkest of ways that while we pat ourselves on the back for our achievements in civil rights, there is an ugliness that still bubbles just under the surface of polite society. We have not won the war for equality. Hatred has just been dormant, awaiting the right moment to rise again. Feed it in just the right way, and it will burst back out into the public square.
Spurred on by the polarizing rhetoric now so prevalent in our political debate, these groups feel emboldened to give voice to their hateful views. Political opportunists and talking heads will continue to stir up emotions to enflame an already divided public. And people, many of whom were not there to witness the 1960s, World War II or Jim Crow, will gladly channel their anger into hatred of those who don’t look like themselves, act like themselves or worship the proper religion.
Once emboldened, this kind of movement feeds itself. Indeed, in the wake of last weekend’s events, rallies and protests have sprung up throughout the South. The statues and local politics simply provide the platform for these groups’ true agendas.
And they will be met with resistance, as they must be. Fights and brawls will break out, naturally. More injuries and deaths will be likely. Tension over race has been simmering below the surface for a long time, we probably can’t conceive some of the events yet to come.
Now is a time when the country needs strong leadership. Our politicians, community leaders, teachers, law enforcement agencies, and in short, each and every one of us must step up and unite against those who feel empowered to spout views that go against the fabric of what this country stands for.
We cannot issue tepid statements. We cannot point fingers to spread the blame. We must have leaders who will be bold, call out evil for what it is, and rally the people to stand up against it. Our president stumbled badly out of the gate on that this weekend, and though his words Monday set a far better tone, it will be actions, and not words that will win the day.
The president is not a polished orator or politician, but he has sold himself based on his strength. As extremists like David Duke co-opt his rhetoric to justify reprehensible actions, he can take a stand. He can help banish these views to the dustbin of history where they belong. They have no place in a great America.
But even should he make that stand, we are not absolved of our personal responsibility. As the torch lights of last weekend are replaced with candle lights of remembrance, we must ask ourselves what we plan to do after the prayers and services are over and our thoughts turn to fall, school and football. Because Charlottesville is not an event unto itself. It is a battle in a war, and that war is far from over.
Chris Six is managing editor of the Fauquier Times and Gainesville and Prince William Times. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChristopherSix1