On Saturday, August 12, violence erupted on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia as counter-protesters clashed with the Unite the Right rally, supposedly organized to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Now three people are dead with many more injured or arrested.
Far from uniting the right, this event led to stark division within Republican leadership as some GOP leaders strongly condemned President Trump for comments about violence and bigotry "on all sides." Though he later denounced groups such as the KKK and neo-Nazis, he later doubled down on his belief that there were "very fine people" on both sides of this protest. He then took to Twitter expressing sadness at seeing more Confederate monuments removed from public spaces.
There seems to be some misunderstanding of what Unite the Right actually was. This was not a peaceful protest that got out of hand because a few hooligans showed up. This was organized by known members of white supremacist organizations. This was a racist rally plain and simple. There is no room for ambiguity about it.
If any "very fine people" showed up to this rally, then I can only assume that they misunderstood what it was about and then immediately joined the counter-protesters or left the area.
I don't believe for one second that people at the rally had any care for the historical value of the statue of Robert E. Lee. If they did, they wouldn't have been carrying Nazi flags and they would've known that the statue was going to be moved to a museum, not destroyed.
The Civil War is part of our history and heritage. When I was in the Army, I actually saw plaques that honored Civil War soldiers on both sides. The Civil War was fought over states' rights ... to continue slavery. Anyone telling you it wasn't about slavery is simply wrong or lying ... just like Donald Trump is wrong or lying when he says there were fine people marching alongside swastikas and Klan hoods. The average rank and file soldiers of the Confederacy deserve to be memorialized, not as heroes, but as casualties. Most of those men who went to battle for their homes were not slave owners.
Rich people owned slaves. And, as we all know, the rich don't fight in wars. They start wars. It's up to the rest of us to do the killing and dying.
Lyndon B. Johnson said, "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pockets. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you.
This strategy has been working for years.
There is hope that has emerged from all this, though. Many Republican leaders, including Mitt Romney and John McCain, have broken ranks with Trump and called for unambiguous condemnation of the racist motivations behind Unite the Right. Perhaps with more competent leadership, the right can truly unite under the banner of what is truly right.