Admittedly I have struggled with the putting into words my reaction to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Born, raised and schooled in New Hampshire, whose state motto is Live Free or Die, but now having lived more of my life in Virginia, I was struggling to understand how strong feelings of southern heritage had been co-opted by hate groups. How could I express my sense of right and wrong?
My good friend Tim Mead, who’s thinking I respect and admire, posted his Manifesto on his Facebook page. Nothing I could write would improve it or capture my thinking any better.
1. Nazism is evil. Saying there are other evils in the world, as has been done in the last week, does not mitigate the evil of Nazism. Making that case is an attempt to distract us from the real issue.
2. Persons who arrive at a public gathering carrying lighted torches, flags bearing Swastikas, clubs, and yelling racial, ethnic, and religious slurs are looking for trouble. Despite a claim, these are not “nice people.”
3. Apprehension that “political correctness” diminishes the richness of public and private discourse does not justify racial, ethnic, and religious slurs. One of the hallmarks of a civilized society is respect for other persons. Those who lack such respect, therefore, must be considered uncivilized.
4. The United States of America was founded on such respect. Has it always been manifested in its most prefect form? By all of our national leaders? No to both questions. Has progress been made? Yes. We ought not regress to an earlier standard.
5. Statues are symbols. Statues of Confederate heroes were erected in two periods. One after 1876 and through roughly 1920. To resolve the disputed election of 1876, Republicans essentially ceded to Southern Democrats the power to usher in the shameful Jim Crow period. The other started after May 17, 1954, the date Brown v. Board of Education was decided, and lasted through the late 1960s, the end of the Martin Luther King led Civil Rights period. What do these periods share? These statues were erected for political purposes. Now they are being removed for political purposes. For those with a “let locals decide” bent, note the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue was decided by local officials. Turn-about is fair play.
6. Much of politics is symbolic. And symbols are important. Consider, as an example, the hoorah about athletes standing for the national anthem. It doesn’t make a RAs difference (for those without an academic background, RA stands for Resident Assistant) for the game whether the national anthem is played (indeed, the practice was only started during the Red Scare of the 1920s) or athletes stand. And the athletes who chose to stand or not stand do so as symbols.
7. In many senses, what we are seeing is nostalgia for the Confederacy. Let’s make this very clear. The constitutional argument, then and now, for the Confederacy was state’s rights. And the right the states which secceeded, unsuccessfully as it turned out, was the right to maintain chattel slavery. During the late 1950s and 1960’s the argument for state’s rights was the right to maintain Jim Crow.
8. The United States is not a Christian nation, hostile to other religions, and where other religions are forced to take secondary places.
9. The United States is not a white nation, hostile to other races, and where other races are forced to take secondary places.
10. Folks who disagree with any of the above are free, indeed I invite you, to unfriend me.