There is no room for equivocal statements when neo-nazis are marching through our cities. Sure, they have the right to freedom of speech, and I know that the message of love and unity will always defeat the message of hate and division in the marketplace of ideas. So give these philistines their march with their worn out, hateful ideas. But in response to these marches a large number of people who subscribe to a philosophy of unity and love will be there to counter-protest.
Before recent events, I would expect any president of the United States to unequivocally support the counter-protestors and their sacrifices, including the acknowledgment of the counter-protestor who lost his life for his belief in love and unity.
I would expect any president to expound on his abhorrence of all hate groups, particularly the recently active hate groups of white supremacists, neo-nazis, and Klansmen. I expect The President to extol their message as one of hatred and division, and an extremist view with no place in mainstream politics.
Instead, Trump blames both sides. The President equated white supremacists with folks who believe in a tolerant America with its deep roots in pluralism and diversity. Then he amends his previously callous remark with a delusion: “the alt left [which doesn’t exist] is also to blame.” If prior to this tragedy in Virginia, one didn’t see that the alt right and white supremacists make up Trump’s base, it is now painfully visible.
For example, At a press conference about infrastructure spending, three days after neo-nazis took to the streets of Charlottesville, VA, The President was given ample opportunity to condemn David Duke and disavow the support shown to him by white supremacists, and neo-nazis.
He came back to the podium as if he were going to answer the question, “Do you, Mr. President, disavow support from nazis?” Alas, he approached the podium to say he would sign the manufacturing bill inside (the evasion and criticism of the free press by Trump is alarming–it’s a tactic employed by despots). As he walked away, he was once again asked by a forceful voice that caused all other questions and sounds to fade into background noise: “Do you disavow the support you receive from white supremacists?” President Trump clearly heard the question, and his shaking head, and nervous body language betrayed his attempt to pretend that he wasn’t listening. He walked away.
He walked away from the moral leadership that presidents of the United States have assiduously displayed time immemorial: President Bush’s appearance at ground zero, FDR’s fireside chats, President Obama’s response to the Sandy Hook Shooting and the Boston Marathon Bombing.
We allowed a person to become president who has never once shown the propensity to serve his fellow man or his country or honor its timeless traditions and principles, but has instead shown the proclivity to wrap himself in the American Flag only to serve his own base interests. The only consistency in Trump’s moral life is his consistent racism.
He was sued by the federal government for racial discrimination for steering African Americans away from his properties; he has tried with some success to ban folks from certain Muslim majority countries from entering the United States; he has made asylum to the United States more difficult to obtain (a process that was already nearly impossible to get through) and that many of these folks aided the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Furthermore, Trump’s father was arrested after marching in a parade-turned-riot in which two Italians were killed by KKK members and sympathizers. The flyer passed around that no doubt induced Mr. Trump to march was thoroughly anti-Italian and anti-Papist (anti-Catholic).
And we are aware of the words that have come out of President Trump’s own mouth: of Mexican undocumented workers, he said “they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”; at the Republican National Jewish Conference, he stated, “Is there anybody that doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room? This room negotiates them — perhaps more than any other room I’ve ever spoken in.”
His fallacious comment that equated inner-cities to war zones, enraged my neighbors and me–a lifelong resident of the inner-city. First of all, our inner-cities, like Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and New York City are bastions of the American melting pot. I participate in Caribbean Day, Dorchester Day, Saint Anthony’s Feast, and Saint Patrick’s Day, and, even though I’m an Irish kid originally from the Irish Projects (Old Harbor a.k.a. Mary Ellen McCormick), I learned about my brothers’ and sisters’ culture. Yes, I refer to my fellow Bostonians as brothers and sisters, and they refer to me the same way–Boston is a brotherhood/a sisterhood. It is not a war zone. Nor are America’s other great cities.
Certain issues will exist in any densely populated neighborhood, particularly neighborhoods that are home to those struggling socioeconomically. But Trump doesn’t understand these complexities. For Trump, the “inner city war zone” comment was coded racism to his white supremacist base. Trump does not care about demeaning us and patronizing the inner city folks (particularly black folks) who actively struggle on a daily basis to make these cities function–these cities that are not war zones but proud symbols of American diversity and pluralism.
Trump has failed to provide us with any moral guidance. Yes, speech is protected under the 1st Amendment, but before Trump, the moral leadership in this country, especially with the election of a black man as president, caused people to keep their ignorant, racist beliefs hidden. Folks turned to the Obama Campaign with such passion and hope that we spoke of a post-racial age. Not until Trump won the presidency did these “brave” men come out from hiding (my neighbors didn’t unfurl their Trump campaign sign until the day after Election Day). The people look to the president for moral leadership.
The inaction and equivocal moral statements of this president in the wake of Charlottesville, VA will have devastating ramifications for this country’s race relations. The event has proven that there is a vacuum of moral leadership right now, which will lead to racial and societal breakdown. Please, all you brave Americans, do not stop resisting this message of hate with the message of love and unity. Pankaj Mishra in the The New Yorker in “Václav Havel’s Lessons on How to Create a Parallel Polis”:
The “power of the powerless,” he argued, resides in their capacity to organize themselves and resist “the irrational momentum of anonymous, impersonal, and inhuman power.
– Mishra, Pankaj. “Václav Havel’s Lessons on How to Create a Parallel Polis.” 8 February 2017. Accessed 20 August 2017. http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/vaclav-havels-lessons-on-how-to-create-a-parallel-polis