To borrow a line for Sara Bareilles, “Blank stares at blank pages, no easy way to say this”.
I’m still on vacation for a couple of days yet, and, although I try hard to stay out of the fray when I’m away, sometimes it simply isn’t possible. It is not possible. Emphatically not possible. I will, at the start, caution the Trump supporters in my life – and I know there are a few of you still hanging in there – that I am not planning to walk on eggshells for your benefit (in fact, I would really love for you to tell me how on earth you can possibly still feel supportive & what you feel positive about after the spectacle of the past few months – particularly the past few weeks).
First I need to talk about what happened in Charlottesville this weekend. And, not completely germain, but purely in the interests of full disclosure, I need to warn some of my progressive friends that we may have a difference of opinion on the subject of statuary. I am firmly opposed to confederate flags being displayed on public land, other than museums or monuments, and have discussed that previously – what those flags represent is sedition (and a failure at that), and are not something an allegedly patriotic state, in a united country, should be flaunting, I feel differently about statutes. Perhaps particularly about Lee. Particularly in Virginia. Robert E. Lee was indisputably a brilliant military tactician, a West Point graduate, who served the United States with honor prior to the Civil War. He was caught between family & country, and made an uneasy, non-patriotic, choice to abandon the US military and the Union to join the Confederacy in support of his family. Even then, he was still well-respected by his former peers in the Union army. His family roots are firmly in the Charlottesville area. I realize we all view these things differently, and I very much understand the reasons why those statutes of confederate soldiers are being removed, but I think that perhaps the subject of these statues really is more nuanced than that of the flags. Sometimes the answers are not in stark contrast of right and wrong – shades of gray abound in life.
But that said… What happened was, of course, only superficially about the statue of Lee. What it really was about was a massive gathering of, often armed, white supremacists and neo-Nazi’s – mostly, it seems, NOT from the Charlottesville area, who took this opportunity to throw a prolonged tantrum. And to try to terrorize Charlottesville into bending to their will. And make no mistake – there is a reason the FBI has always tracked these groups as domestic terrorists – that is what they are. And their purpose was not peaceful, it was intimidation. The large number of swastikas and confederate flags that the demonstrators brought with them, should give us all pause. World War II was fought in Europe and Africa to end Nazi aggression – many countries were allied on this point – including the United States. The Nazis lost the war – badly, in fact. The Nazi party and the neo-Nazi’s really don’t get to have a place at this table. And, although this seems unclear to some folks, the Confederacy lost the Civil War. Neither of those things changed with Donald Trump’s election – no matter what they may think, and no matter how poorly our president “speaks out” against this (yes, Ivanka did, but seriously folks, this group would like to see her family, and all other Jews, wiped off the earth – they were chanting anti-Jewish sentiments at the rally). Donald Trump’s apparent inability to firmly call domestic terrorists what they are has moved beyond appalling to blatantly absurd. Call white supremacists what they are, and stop worrying about offending that horrible segment of your base. And stop pretending that they aren’t a part of your base. David Duke, former leader of the KKK, and ardent white supremacist actually said at the rally in Charlottesville: “This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back, we’re going to fulfil the promises of Donald Trump, and that’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we gotta do”. And then when the president tweeted against the violence on Saturday afternoon, Duke responded by tweeting “I would recommend you take a good look in the mirror & remember it was White Americans who put you in the presidency, not radical leftists.” Indeed. They recognized the code, and Trump reinforced that code by playing cute about Duke’s endorsement of his candidacy (“I don’t know anything about David Duke”) – and even his subsequent refutation of the white supremacists was negated by his choice of an actual former Nazi, Sebastian Gorka, among his advisors. And then there’s Steve Bannon. There is always Steve Bannon – cheerfully explaining that he is a “economic nationalist” not a nationalist nationalist.
Let’s be clear – this was not a ‘peaceful’ demonstration disrupted by radical leftists that were paid to be there. For pity’s sake – pay attention, get over your freaking conspiracy theories, and take your head out of Brietbart, Infowars and the Daily Wire for a bit of outside information – you might even find it enlightening. I’ve even heard some truly incomprehensible claims that this was a ‘private’ demonstration and the counter demonstrators had no right to be there. This is public land – you can’t have a ‘private’ anything on public land, and the First Amendment applies to everyone. The videos, and the eyewitness accounts of the clergy members that were leading the counter demonstration, make it very clear where the aggression was. And the sole purpose of this gathering was to try to intimidate a community into embracing its confederate history.
And most importantly, let’s never forget Heather Heyer, a 32 year-old paralegal who lived in Charlottesville. She was killed, while walking with friends as the rally was breaking up, when 20 year old James Fields of Maumee, Ohio (yes, indeed, he came from Ohio to join the rally) deliberately drove his car into the group of counter demonstrators – and then backed up into more of them. In other places, when an Islamic terrorist has driven a vehicle into a crowd of people, President Trump has been quick to decry Islamic terrorists, and call for immigration bans. When a domestic terrorist, for that’s what this is, drives a car into a crowd, he laments the violence on “all sides”. And everyone on the right can lament the actions of a lone mentally unstable individual. (And can completely ignore the bombing of a mosque in a suburb of Minneapolis because well, it was a mosque that was bombed). But, as with Dylan Root and the Charleston church massacre, among other acts of domestic terrorism, we don’t stop to consider, much less talk about, the radicalization of the white guys (and sometimes women). We just talk about how this country has a mental health issue. But when the perpetrator has been ‘radicalized’ by Islam – then we have a terrorist, not a mentally ill individual. The double standard needs to stop if we are ever seriously going to denounce white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other domestic terrorists. They are not what the vast majority of US citizens are about, they are not representative of the nation as a whole, and they are certainly not “patriots” by any definition of the word.
And that brings me to Russia – Putin expels 750 diplomats, and President Trump tweets a thank you for helping to reduce personnel costs? Someone on team Trump please, please, explain why this makes sense. Why he seems completely incapable of criticizing Putin or Russia for much of anything? (And side comment, the Russia investigations in the house, the senate & DOJ are not made up stuff – our intelligence agencies know definitively that Russia attempted to interfere with the election – it’s why the sanctions were not only renewed, they were toughened, by congress nearly unanimously; and Eric Trump really did meet with Russians looking for promised dirt on Clinton, & Paul Manafort & Mike Flynn really were double-dealing and probably will be the ones indicted by Mueller’s grand jury).
And then there’s the North Korean quagmire. I grew up in the Cold War. Fallout shelters, Duck and Cover, good times, really. No not really. Watch Atomic Cafe some time. I never would have imagined that my children, as young adults, would now be facing the specter of nuclear war, largely due to the bluster and threats of the president, and the sheer incompetence of a president that tells the Governor of Guam that the threat of nuclear was would boost tourism to Guam (because of course it would – mushroom cloud selfies are everyone’s dream). I assume that since science is not his strong suit, he doesn’t quite understand the full ramifications of a nuclear war.
And after you explain to me why nuclear war, or any war, with North Korea (& China) would be a good idea, then you can also explain why we even entered the fray with Venezuela? Are we seriously considering military action to deal with their INTERNAL problems? No, of course not. But if we beat the war drums loud enough, we stop the news about Mueller. Or about Charlottesville. Distraction is clearly a specialty of this administration.
And on that note, I’ll go back to trying to enjoy the time remaining of my vacation.