Last Saturday I went to Charlottesville in order to gauge the seriousness of the threat. Ever since the rise of the Tea party, I’ve been concerned about the door it opened to the far right. Those forces, such as the KKK and the John Birch society, were marginalized by the mainstream body of conservatives for good reason.
The Tea party has reminded me of pre-war Germany when the fascist brown shirts came to power, because it consisted of common men who felt empowered over others.
Since there was a KKK rally in Charlottesville earlier this year, I’ve been concerned such forces may take drastic action. Ostensibly, the rally was about not taking down Confederate statues, however, actually it’s about white supremacy and privilege. It’s known that the US is moving towards Caucasians being the minority. This is a good thing, as it will create a more inclusive and tolerant society.
With the words and tweets coming from our President, it has created an environment where these far right forces feel emboldened to take their place in public discourse. Trump has said so many intolerant things – it is alarming and offensive.
What I witnessed Saturday was quite chilling. Confederate flags and fascist symbols abounded on flags and shields. There were men present carrying semi automatic rifles. They were indistinguishable from National Guard troops except for their lack of insignia, although some of them had confederate flags on their uniforms. The rally members gathered in the park were yelling anti-Semitic and homophobic things at the counter protesters.
The rally was billed as ‘Unite the Right Free Speech rally’. They gathered around the park with a Robert E. Lee statue which has been under consideration for removal. Forces of prejudice and intolerance were invoking their free-speech rights in order say hateful things. They stand as forces of violence and racial suppression.
I saw many people assaulted by alt-right forces who were there with weapons. There were billy clubs, pepper spray and some pink liquid that one of them hit me in the side of the face with, covering my glasses and getting in my eyes.
I witnessed these thugs pushing a woman around who had been yelling at them, and taunting her as she was desperate to get away from them. They marched into Emancipation park (formerly Lee Park) forcing their way through a line of clergy including Cornell West, despite Antifa attempts at protecting them.
With the death of Heather Heyer, we now have a figurehead for a movement against fascism and white supremacy. She will not be forgotten by those who stand for peace and justice.
Confederate statues are much, much more than historical tributes. They were erected by white supremacists who wanted to intimidate the black population. They were put up as Jim Crow laws were being enforced and red-lining prevented homeownership by our black brothers and sisters.
It’s time for this “Master” mindset to go away. It’s a continuation of the legacy of second sons from England. First sons inherited the family wealth, other sons had to go into the world and create their own wealth. It was much easier for these aristocrats to not work and to steal land from the natives. They were also so lazy that they used fellow human beings as slaves to do the labor for them. This is the origin of the mindset I saw on Saturday. It’s the origin of the forces from the south that fought in the Civil War. Many men became extremely wealthy from “King Cotton”, riches earned at the expense of those who were enslaved by them. Understandably, they were freaked out by having to lose that easy wealth. The current crop of bigots are also freaked out by the loss of their white privilege due to immigration and civil rights legislation.
The United States has reached a tipping point and some people are clinging to the old ways, where they could get rich by dominating and intimidating other people. As a progressive, I work so that society becomes one where equality, compassion, and justice are more important than “survival of the fittest”.
I went to Charlottesville on Saturday to be a witness, because it’s too easy to just shrug off threats as happening to “other people”. In a civil society it’s important for us all to be informed, so I have written this in order to spread the word. You are important. You have a voice and a vote. Please use them for the good of all.