“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King
What happened in Charlottesville, and has since flared up in other places, was disgusting. It also can be said with absolute certainty that there is no moral equivalence between the two groups involved in the violent outbreaks. I also know it is a foregone conclusion that the small minority that claimed to embody the two opposing forces are not representative of a majority of the American population.
Nothing was solved by those who participated in the violent events at Charlottesville or by those who tried to “continue” the conversation after the events.
There seems to be a lot of “conversations” we as a nation are incapable of having with absolute honesty. We are here, in this place and time, because of our own individual failures. It is easy to “hate” and devalue a person you have no real individual connection with, but our failure to embrace the “human condition” that we all share is the paramount reason our country finds itself in the middle of a virtual civil war. Which brings us to the events at Charlottesville.
What happened was not a flashpoint in time, nor was it just about the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Charlottesville was the culmination of many things, over decades, building up like an active volcano. A little smoke here, Earth trembles there, slight eruptions from time to time, until boom! The top blows off and chaos ensues.
There are those who believe there were two groups at Charlottesville, white supremacists and ANTIFA. The white supremacists were represented by neo-Nazis, the KKK and other like-minded white nationalists. ANTIFA, which stands for anti-Fascist, is in reality a collection of anarchist groups. Both groups did in fact play a part in the violence, either directly or indirectly during that August weekend, and at other events since. We as a nation must make clear neither group was justified in using violence, and we do this by condemning both equally.
There are those who would like to believe the white supremacists represented the mainstream, political right in this country. There are also some who believe ANTIFA represents much of the political left. This is ridiculous. White supremacists and ANTIFA use violence to intimidate people, all too often innocent people caught in the middle. This is not what I stand for, nor is it the attitude of any rational person.
Although the rally was called Unite the Right, it had nothing to do with uniting the “right,” just as the violent acts by ANTIFA and other “left-leaning” groups we have witnessed since Trump’s election do not represent the majority of other left-leaning groups. Richard Spencer and James Alex Fields Jr. are no more representative of the Republican Party than James Hodgkinson and Mike Isaacson are representative of the Democratic Party. The violent agitators at Charlottesville represent their own polluted, sick ideology rooted in hate, fear and violence. Both groups have nestled themselves within the left and right of our political spectrum. Both major political parties know this and “try to walk a thin line” of condemnation and appeasement (not agreement), but in the end neither would deny either group’s votes.
Some people are no longer satisfied with “just disagreeing,” they need to dehumanize those who do not think exactly like them, because it makes it easier to “destroy” those in the opposition, the “enemy.” However, we solve nothing if we hold on to hate. What our Founding Fathers hoped for and what our reality is today is a far cry from our true potential as a country.
The other group came because they disagreed with the removal of the Lee statue and wanted to defend free speech, and were also there to exercise their constitutionally protected right. What this group failed to realize is that either by choice, poor judgment or because some in the media found it easier to lump them in with white supremacists, they were marching with Nazis. Once it was clear this rally was a nothing more than the modern equivalent of a “Nuremberg Rally,” and once ANTIFA ignored the words of Dr. King, the event was lost to those who came to peacefully protest. Sadly, a person lost their life, but even that didn’t stop our hatred for each other.
Compounding the tragedy is that it mattered to some what President Trump said and when he said it. He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. However, Trump missed an opportunity to offer the right tone and proper perspective. Yes, some on both sides failed this country, and yes some on both sides were violent. But there is a time in place for that discussion, and in the wake of the death of Heather Heyer, Trump missed the chance to at least sound unifying, even if some in the audience were indifferent to anything he might have said or done.
We solve nothing if we hold onto hate, or if we fail to understand none of us is bound by the actions of our ancestors, just as those who follow us are under no obligation to advance our wrongs. My hope is that this column will at least reach a few people that “violence begets violence,” and heed the concluding words from Dr. King opening passage, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”