We have certain expectations for our Commander in Chief. Despite what we witnessed on the campaign trail, we had hoped, as President, Trump would respect the dignity of the highest office, demonstrate decorum, and comfort this nation during times of crisis. Unfortunately, during these past weeks, we have watched incredulously, as Trump, acting very un-presidential, said and did the unspeakable.
The events that occurred in Charlottesville, VA this month underscore Americans’ need for strong leadership and the importance for our leaders to disavow hate, racism and bigotry.
Dozens of self described white nationalists bore torches, a symbolic gesture to Ku Klux Klan marches of yesteryear, and chanted phrases like “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and Soil” (a favorite slogan of Adolph Hitler) as they marched in Charlottesvile. Organizers maintained that the event was intended to oppose the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in what is now called Emancipation Park. However, racist, antisemitic chants quickly revealed the true purpose of the gathering.
The Unite the Right rally, held the following day, was far less ambiguous. The event, organized by members of the Nationalist Front, openly invited the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis and other white supremacist and hate groups. Prominent attendees included Richard Spencer and former KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke. Rally attendees, emboldened with semi-automatic weapons, carried swastikas and confederate flags and chanted racist and anti-Jewish mantras.
Escalating tension among Rally participants and counter protestors prompted city officials to cancel the event. Unfortunately, the day ended in tragedy when a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter protestors, killing one woman and injuring 19 others: A clear act of domestic terrorism.
When Trump failed to condemn the hate-inspired rally and even suggested some level of equivalence between those who marched and those who protested. He failed to acknowledge the victims in his remarks. He never called the mother of Heather Heyer, the 32-year old who was killed in the attack, to offer his condolences, nor did he call the event a terrorist attack. He failed to denounce white supremacy in his remarks and instead suggested that blame lay on all sides.
In a rare act of repentance, Trump, on Monday, read a prepared statement denouncing white supremacy and hate groups. Unfortunately, his compassion was short lived.
One day later, Trump defiantly claimed both sides were to blame (even though it was a white supremacist that caused the deadly attack) and openly sympathized with the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. He went so far as to suggest that many who marched on Friday and Saturday, (those bearing swastikas, confederate flags, Hitler quotes and other Nazi-inspired symbolism) were “fine people”. He implied that the white supremacists that marched are the same as those who were protesting against hate, intolerance, antisemitism, racism and bigotry.
Trump failed the simplest of tests. He was asked to unequivocally denounce racism, hate and white supremacy…and he capitulated. Trump is known for his quick and severe condemnations. He has mocked a disabled reporter, referred to POWs as losers (because they were captured), attacked a Gold Star family and has taken to Twitter to attack actors, news media, politicians, and foreign leaders.
In this instance, he clearly failed to demonstrate moral leadership. He refused to stand up for all those who have fought against racism and fascism.
Instead, he chose to appease his far right base. With his most recent remarks, he empowers hate groups and legitimizes their vile agendas. He was rewarded with public praise by David Duke.
Regardless of party affiliation or ideology, we all must stand against hate and racism. Our forefathers fought the Civil War to end slavery and keep our nation united; millions of Americans (with over 400,000 giving their lives) fought fascism in WWII. Have we forgotten?
Susquehanna Valley Progressives is calling on political leaders here in the Susquehanna Valley to reject the ideology of far-right hate groups and denounce the idea that those who seek equality and peace are equivalent to those who celebrate white supremacy, slavery and antisemitism.
Call your congressman and state legislator and demand a public statement.
We must know our leaders represent core American values: freedom, liberty equality and unity.
Nicole Faraguna is a founding member of the Susquehanna Valley Progressives.