Three people died and over 30 were injured on Saturday, August 12, 2017 when a white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia turned violent. The rally, dubbed “Unite the Right” by its organizers, came together amid plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a prominent statue to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Many of the white protesters brandished weapons, chanted “Blood and Soil” (a Nazi slogan), waved Nazi flags as well as Confederate battle flags, and shouted racist and homophobic obscenities. Predictably (and appropriately), the white nationalist rally drew counter-demonstrators. And when the groups clashed, things became bloody and ultimately deadly.
My family and I were traveling back from vacation when all this was happening, so we were catching bits and pieces on our smartphones. And, like many of you, my emotions went on a bit of a roller coaster. I’m still processing it.
I am frankly shocked that so many “Americans” came together in one place openly embracing white supremacy – and some even Nazism. The images of torch-bearing protesters chanting “Blood and Soil” and some carrying Nazi flags is chilling. And it’s horrifying to consider this happened on American soil – in 2017!
President Trump publicly condemned the violence and “bigotry” on display in Charlottesville, but did so in broad equivocating language that laid the blame “on many sides.” (8/14/07 Update: He has since issued a follow-up statement: “Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans”). Others on social media have defended the white nationalist marchers – or have at least expressed a degree of sympathy for them. This is all mind-boggling and absolutely shocking to me. How hard is it, in 2017, to specifically and pointedly condemn Nazism and white supremacy?
Let’s be clear on this point…
White supremacy and Nazism are evil.
I agree with Russell Moore, the head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the Washington, DC arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, when he termed what the white nationalists marched for as “satanic.” I also agreed with him when he lamented on Twitter: “I am grieved to the core to think that this is the United States of America that I’m watching on live television right now.”
To their credit, most Christian leaders have echoed similar condemnations. And we’re seeing condemnation from most political leaders, Democrats and Republicans, as well — the President’s disappointing statement notwithstanding. Let me also state that I don’t believe these white nationalists, despite their claims to the contrary, represent “the right.”
And it’s worth noting that, in a nation of 300 million people, a rally of several hundred white supremacists (one count had it at 1500) is hardly representative of the country. None of us should think these marchers represent mainstream America. But…
This is still sobering and it’s still appalling. And it’s still something that should capture our attention and serve as a wake-up call.
One Nazi is one too many.
My Grandpa fought against the Nazis in World War II and it absolutely breaks my heart to see people embracing that reprehensible worldview that cost the civilized world so much to defeat over 70 years ago.
And for those few of you who haven’t yet seen pictures of the rally or read any details about it…this isn’t me committing some Godwin’s Law violation. This isn’t me mischaracterizing anyone as a “Nazi.” I know that happens in the political climate these days, especially on social media. But that’s not the case here. Many of those taking part in the white nationalist march waved (or marched alongside) Nazi flags! Nazi flags! On American soil! I saw a picture of one protester wearing a T-shirt with a Hitler quote. That’s right, a Hitler quote!
While we should speak for peace and against violence in general – and, yes, hold all sides accountable (as the President is apparently trying to do) – there is no moral equivalency here.
When you march under a Nazi flag and approvingly quote Hitler, you’ve lost any claim to the moral high ground….or frankly even to any neutral ground. You’re marching with the Bad Guys.
Yes, I realize that a few of the white protesters yesterday (August 12) at the Charlottesville rally probably aren’t Nazis and probably aren’t admirers of Hitler. But there were enough of those people out there to tarnish the entire demonstration. And you know what? Let’s say you just showed up to defend a statue of Robert E. Lee. Let’s say you personally don’t see yourself as racist. You just like Lee and don’t believe in sanitizing history. And so you came to defend Lee. Well, guess what? It shouldn’t have taken you long to figure out that the demonstration was more – much more – than just speaking up for a dead Confederate general. It was a display of reprehensible and diabolical hate. As soon as you saw Nazi or KKK signs or memorabilia or banners, you should have said “Whatever side they are on, I’m not.” And you should’ve stood against them. Period.
Yes, I’m aware that some in the alt-right are trying to distance themselves from the Nazis. One prominent alt-right blogger refers to the latter as the “Alt-Reich” and is calling on his colleagues to denounce them, but… that same alt-right blogger lists the following as one of the movement’s tenets: “The Alt Right believes we must secure the existence of white people and a future for white children.” Seriously? Is there any surprise that such quasi-Aryan talk might attract open admirers of Hitler?
I’m also aware that some of the white nationalists (and their supporters) are blaming Antifa, BLM, the police, etc. for the violence. Reality check: What kind of emotions do you expect white supremacy and Nazism to trigger in the United States of America? You can’t aggravate a bees’ nest and then blame others when people get stung.
Besides, how the police should or should not have handled security is really a separate discussion. The focus of this blog post comes down to this…
All those who marched in solidarity with the white nationalists in Charlottesville on August 12 were siding with evil. There is no getting away from that fact.
The civilized world united over 70 years ago to defeat the evils of Nazism. The United States of America was a part of that struggle. It’s my hope that the people of this great nation will once again rally together – this time close to home – and defeat this worldview once again. Not through violence this time, but through the positive and unequivocal manifestation of the same ideals and principles that drove my grandparents’ generation to defeat Nazism in the 1940s.
And may we turn to God for healing, wisdom, and guidance in times like these, and may we always put our hope and trust in Him.
May God bless the United States of America.