Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville Reaction

            On April 9, 1865, in Virginia, about an hour and a half south of Charlottesville, Robert E. Lee surrendered. Lee was a traitor who violated his oath to the US Constitution and led other traitorous soldiers against the forces of the United States. On June 2, 1865, Edmund Kirby Smith, who also broke faith with his country in violation of oaths he took as an officer in the US Army, surrendered the last of the Confederate armies, and the US Civil War ended. White Nationalism lost. Their attempt to create a white nation failed. And then, because it was politically expedient, and because the United States has a long and difficult past in regards racial harmony, they and their ancestors were allowed to act as though that were not the case. They were allowed to erect statues to traitors who violated their oaths, and who lost the war they fought as a result of those treasonous actions. They were allowed to fly a treasonous flag which symbolized treason and support for racially based slavery. They were allowed to perpetuate their ideas of racial superiority, and the de facto institution of slavery, because the Democrats, and then the Republicans, needed their votes.

            100 years later, in 1965, they lost again. No one needed their votes that much anymore. Their repression of a significant percentage of the Southern population, in terms of social interaction, access to public services, and, significantly, voting rights could no longer be ignored. Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and their allies had made it very very hard to ignore that repression. And so an overwhelmingly white government said, in essence, “Wait a minute. They LOST the war in 1865. Why are we letting them pretend otherwise?” and took some very small steps towards addressing that pretense.

            52 years after that, people in the United States have started to say, “Hey, didn’t they LOSE that war? Why do we have statues of loser traitors who violated their oath to the US Constitution in our public spaces? Why is the losing flag of a treasonous movement devoted to the preservation of racial slavery flying over our public buildings? Shouldn’t we do something about that?” And, for a wonder, government officials in control of those public spaces and buildings are starting to agree, and act accordingly.

            What happened in Charlottesville, and what is probably going to continue happening across the South for a little while, I’m very sorry to say – those are the actions of a group of people who have been allowed to pretend that they won, when, in reality, they did not. For 152 years, they (their ancestors and themselves) have been able to say, sometimes out loud, and sometimes quietly to themselves, “the history books say we lost, but when I go into my public places, I see Robert E. Lee, and Edmund Smith, and all of the other leaders of our briefly glorious white nationalist movement immortalized in statues. I see the symbol of that movement flying over my government buildings. And so I know that, even if people say otherwise, we actually won that war.” Well, they didn’t. And now, as the statues are removed, and the flags come down, and their entire ideology is repudiated, now they are responding. This is not the response of people who are winning – this is the response of people who are losing, and are finally being forced to come to terms with it. Dr. King said that people in power never give up that power without a fight, and make no mistake, the ability to dictate who we memorialize and how we remember events is a pretty potent power. But they’ve lost. They lost in 1865, they lost in 1945, they lost in 1965, and they’re still losing now – torches and Nazi salutes are the actions of losers. They want us to think they aren’t covering their faces now because they’ve won – but really, it’s because they think they have nothing left to lose. Our job now is to show them they are wrong. They should be prosecuted as terrorists, but if not that, they should lose socially. They marched with their faces uncovered; they should lose jobs, social standing, the right to be served in restaurants.

            Additionally, here’s a link to a list of links to a series of Charlottesville charities which are congruent with civil rights/social justice beliefs, and antithetical to the ideology of neo-Nazis, white nationalists and racists.