Nonsense and Insensibility

Last Friday in Charlottesville, hundreds of people shouting white supremacist, neo-Nazi, and Klux Klux Klan slogans marched as night fell through the University of Virginia campus illuminating their way with tiki torches.

alt-Right tiki torches

Yes.  I said tiki torches.

Prior to Friday, the fire-tipped poles were mainly seen at barbecues or kitschy attempts at recreating the ambiance of a Polynesian luau.

In less than 12 hours, the company that makes the torches issued a definitive statement on Facebook distancing itself and its product from the hate-a-palooza at the Virginia campus:

It is worth pointing out how ridiculous it is that a company that makes a product most associated with outdoor pool parties needs to disassociate itself from Nazis.  But this is the country we live in now.  

Moreover, our president is quicker to denounce an unflattering news story about himself in the strongest and most unambiguous terms than he is to denounce Nazis in the streets of an American city.

fb tiki

Let’s be clear about one thing thoughtful reader.  In the United States, freedom of speech is among our most cherished and important constitutional rights. But the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend was not about people exercising that right; it was an organized effort to terrorize American citizens and suppress the rights of others.

It was domestic terrorism.

The alt-Right organizers of the rally told their people to bring shields and weapons — they came with assault rifles and bullet-proof vests, ready to do battle.  The clear intent of the “Unite the Right” rally was to incite violence.  A Friday night gathering on a campus founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 was surrounded by white supremacists screaming “we will not be replaced,” “end immigration,” and good ol’ Nazi standards like “sieg heil.”  Early Saturday, Nazis descended on downtown Charlottesville, with hand guns, AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, and shields, punching anti-Nazi counter-protestors they came across in the face.  The violence between protestors spoiling for a fight and counter-protestors defending themselves escalated and the governor of Virginia was forced to declare a state of emergency to keep the peace.

Then a white supremacist drove full speed into a crowd of anti-racist counter-protestors, murdering one and wounding nineteen more.

Every American has a right to freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.  The alt-Right white nationalists want to deny Americans that right.  Carrying firearms to rallies, blocking exit from a peaceful assembly, intimidating those protesting your views with threats of or actual violence, and driving a car full speed into a crowd are all deliberate actions aimed at inciting fear and making Americans stay silent and stay home.  And that is the definition of terrorism.

tiki torch

President Trump lambasted former President Obama for not calling-out radical Islamic terrorism.  And perhaps he had a point; Muslim extremists were (and are) committing barbaric atrocities, striking terror in the hearts of many — they are terrorists.  But should we not hold President Trump to the same standard?  Christian extremists are committing barbaric atrocities, striking terror in the hearts of many — they are terrorists.

Mr. President, it should not take public pressure and criticism from leaders in your own party to get you to denounce Nazis and the KKK.  There’s no need to “get all the facts” or “let the investigation run its course.”

"Nazis organized it to promote white supremacy? …yup, okay, bad, I denounce the rally.  What’s that you say? ...David Duke and the KKK say it's the fulfillment of the promise of my presidency? …Um, no, he’s a nutjob, I disavow him.”

Done.

You don’t need to summon the courage of, say, President Kennedy when he stood up to southern segregationists like Governor George Wallace.  You just need to muster up as much courage as the maker of tiki torches.

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