Please, do not get me wrong in this. I abhor what took place in Charlottesville and all that white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and other bigots stand for. Extreme prejudice and violence unfortunately exist and nothing embodies both more than narrow and ignorant minds – minds incapable of grasping the meaning of America and its vision.
That said America and its commitment to free speech embolden such minds to have their say, for which they have every right.
The protestors’ march and torchlight dance around the Robert E. Lee statue let them have their say, being left talking to themselves and the hollowness of the monument. Tragically, that was not enough for them. Marching down crowded streets the next day, they incited responses, clearly non-violent, until a car ripped into the crowd.
There can be no undoing of that madness. But there is still a lesson to be learned. In America free speech applies as much to those who voice their hatred as to those who voice their love of their country. But acts of hatred and violence should claim no freedom in our land.
Freedom demands responsibility since it is about choices. Racism is a choice of which violence is too often a consequence. But outside the mental prisons of racism and hate, other choices can be made.
Silence cannot be one of them when the values of our country are compromised, nor ambivalence regarding white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and any militant or other hate group seeking the leverage of angry response. Clear vocal but present and passive resistance are well within the laws of the land.
This lesson is not about weakness but about the best kind of strength. It does not stifle response but offers by contrast a civil and sane way to have such a response heard. Dr. Martin Luther King and, long before him, Mahatma Gandhi, embraced the wisdom of passive resistance, though sadly not without consequences. But both are still trying to teach the same lesson. Another such voice is desperately needed these days.
The atmosphere in America is currently charged with misplaced and unnecessary hubris. The Ego Tower of our President renders him out of touch with the effect of his power pulpit on narrow minds and sick souls. His value system needs a major make-over.
What happened in Charlottesville holds a message for him and a lesson for every American.