Racism in America is nothing new.
American Nazis have existed since the end of World War II. The popularity of the KKK ebbs and flows, but it too is a constant in American history. David Duke was on prominent display in Charlottesville, but remember, he’s been pushing an agenda of hate for over 30 years and was once an elected official in the Louisiana House of Representatives.
So while the scourge of racism is an unfortunate permanent fixture in America, it is something we haven’t seen so openly and brazenly for a while. That said, their numbers are still small. Yes, the number of hate groups has risen dramatically in the past few years—specifically because some folks felt threatened by a president who was articulate, intelligent, and black—but to achieve hundreds of protesters in Virginia, hate groups had to draw from all over the country. In a nation of 330 million people, the percentage of actual white supremacists is still relatively small. Let’s be clear about that.
What worries me, then, are the people who turn a blind eye to evil.
In the days before Election 2016, my wife canvassed for Hillary Clinton.
She was given a list of registered Democrats and told, “Knock on doors and get out the vote!” Unfortunately, she discovered that some of those registered Democrats were sitting out 2016. They couldn’t bring themselves to vote for the baby-handed misogynist who advocated violence against non-whites and non-Christians, but they also couldn’t vote for a woman they just didn’t like.
Given the recent events in Charlottesville, it’s almost absurd to think back to last November and recall why Hillary was so unpopular. Her emails. Benghazi. Her demeanor. She handily won all three debates, but polling showed she was only better than Trump when standing right next to him. Within days of each debate, a collective amnesia overcame people and they returned to, “Yeah, but I just don’t like her.”
Alongside apathetic Democrats were the “intellectually superior” fart-sniffers who backed third party candidates. Sure, Jill Stein pandered to the fringe by claiming “We should not be subjecting kids’ brains” to Wi-Fi, but hey, she wasn’t Hillary. That alone made her good enough for hundreds of thousands of voters. Gary Johnson pops up every four years on the Libertarian ticket, but even his running mate Governor Bill Weld was telling folks to choose Hillary by the end.
(They didn’t, because “Libertarian!” is the battle cry of the selfish. Doing something for the collective isn’t in their DNA.)
There were the Eric Cartman-Bernie Bots who didn’t get their way, so they grabbed their votes and went, “Screw you guys, I’m going home.”
Finally, there was the Republican base. People who listened to Donald spew both lies (drain the swamp—like he was ever going to do that), and hate-filled truths (ban Muslims and deport Mexicans—oh yeah, he’s sticking to that agenda), and voted for him anyway.
Everyone listed above scares me.
They saw Donald Trump in all his glory and either voted for him in order to toe the party line, or demurred to vote at all. The blood spilled in Charlottesville is on their hands; they are to blame, perhaps even more so than the actual Nazis.
The Nazis got what they wanted: Trump, chaos, violence. Charlottesville isn’t a loss for them, it’s a win. They are literally just Nazis being Nazis; their behavior cannot surprise us. Violence and hatred is what Nazis do.
I look at Charlottesville as an ugly incident, but in some ways a necessary one. It’s good to bring problems to light; it’s the only way to identify and overcome them. Before Trump, many ignorant people said, “We have a black president, therefore racism has ended.”
That lie has been exposed in the most tragic of ways. The question that remains is: will we do anything about it?
Will Republicans once again vote repugnant, just because they’ve always voted for those with an “R” on the ballot?
Will Democrats be swayed by feelings and pout if they don’t get their way, instead of being forward-thinking?
Roughly 47% of eligible voters sat on their hands in 2016. They didn’t like either candidate enough to make what was a clear and easy decision: madman vs. “I don’t like her.” They figured it didn’t matter who sat in the Oval Office.
Do they see what their indifference has wrought?
We can fight hate through education and empathy, raising children to be better than the evil we saw on display in Virginia. Unfortunately, America isn’t ruled by education and empathy. It’s ruled by apathy, and ignorance. Apathy stays home from the voting booth, while ignorance makes statements like, “Trump’s not a white supremacist… he had an African-American friend …”
Samantha Bloom said that. Don’t know who Samantha Bloom is? She’s the mother of James Alex Fields, the white supremacist who drove his car into anti-Nazi protesters in Charlottesville. James Alex Fields is the murderer who took Heather Heyer away from her friends and family and injured 19 others.
That’s the kind of ignorance we’re dealing with, people who genuinely believe Trump can make 1,000 xenophobic comments, hire a white supremacist as his White House Chief Strategist, fail to condemn the actions of white supremacists, and yet somehow isn’t a white supremacist himself.
Samantha Bloom is an average American citizen. She takes her cues from the input she receives. What kind of input does she get from the Republican party? They call Trump “unorthodox.” They say “he’s new to politics,” that he’s on a learning curve. Politicians like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Steve King, and every one of their ilk should have been out in front of Donald Trump, denouncing him. Instead, they just want to win, because winning is more important than what’s right. Heather Heyer’s blood is on their hands.
Apathy and ignorance allowed a Nazi sympathizer to take the Presidency in 2016. Will it allow the downward path toward violence and hatred to continue in 2018, or 2020?
I don’t know.
Photo: Getty Images