From the moment I heard this morning that white supremacists carrying torches surrounded a church last night in Charlottesville, Virginia, I’ve been alternately watching the events unfold on TV, or checking Twitter or news sites to find out the latest developments. (Yes, even when I should have been doing other things, like at a write-in this afternoon where I wrote a grand total of 200 words. Only two hundred.) It’s frightening and unreal, and the fact that a woman actually died today, when a driver used his car as a weapon, and about twenty other people were injured. A handful of those people are in critical or serious condition. Others were injured, too, when the racists and counter-protesters clashed. In the afternoon, a police helicopter that was monitoring events from above crashed outside of Charlottesville, killing two officers, though I’m not sure if they were state or local police.
I agree with many of the politicians and pundits who labeled the car crash as an act of domestic terrorism, if the investigation finds that the driver’s actions were intentional. Beyond that, were the people attending the Alt-Right rally (“Unite the Right”) encouraging domestic terrorism, even if they weren’t directly involved in any physical altercations? There have been so many mass shootings, and other acts of violence and hate — bombings of mosques and churches, stabbings motivated by extremist beliefs — in cities across the country, and around the world. Something about today’s events in Charlottesville feels different to me, though. It wasn’t just one person — a “lone wolf” who is either mentally ill or a radical extremist — or a small handful of people who espouse a hateful ideology. No. This was a group of people, perhaps hundreds of them, coming together to rally in shared hatred of people who are different from themselves. (If not actual hatred in the heart of every single participant, then at the very least a shared belief that they, white heterosexual “Christian” men — it had to be overwhelmingly men — are better than, more important than, and superior to, members of every other group and class of people.)
The media reported so many instances today of public figures denouncing not only the actions of the participants who showed aggression toward the counter-protesters and/or became violent, but also condemning the messages of hate, racism, and anti-Semitism these people were spreading. It wasn’t only liberals/Democrats; many conservatives/Republicans also issued strong statements against the ideologies of the rally participants. I truly hope today will be a turning point for our country. We have been divided for too long. Hate speech is not the same as free speech. Today’s rally wasn’t about a different point of view; it was a gathering of people who hate, and seek to oppress, people who are unlike themselves. I truly believe that most people are mostly good, and want to be kind to others. We must stand up for one another, and stand together against hatred, prejudice, and cruelty.
I thought of a song today that I can’t help sharing with you: “People are People” by Depeche Mode.