ON TRUMP’S PRESS CONFERENCE
“I decline to be impartial between the fire brigade and the fire.”
“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other that was very violent.”
Since this is my author website, I try for the most part to post about writing rather than politics, but there are times when remaining silent is not an option.
This is one of those times. Last weekend neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan held a torchlight rally in an American city, a rally bearing a chilling resemblance to both lynch-mob Klan rallies and the Nuremburg rallies:
–A rally at which the participants displayed swastikas, Confederate flags, and Klan paraphernalia and shouted, “Jews will not replace us!” and the Nazi slogan, “Blood and soil!” and “Heil Trump!” while doing the stiff-armed Nazi salute.
–A rally at which people shouted, “F–k you, f—-ts!” and “Go the f–k back to Africa, n—-rs!” and stood, armed with semi-automatic rifles across the street from a synagogue while Nazi websites encouraged them to burn the building.
–A rally during which a woman and two police officers were killed and dozens of other people were injured, including a University of Virginia librarian who was hit in the neck, partially dissecting his carotid artery and causing him to have a stroke.
President Trump said this about that rally on Saturday:
“We condemn this egregious display of hatred, bigotry,
and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
And then, just in case we didn’t understand what he was saying, followed it up on Tuesday with:
“What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? Let me ask you this: What about the fact that they came charging, that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.”
There “was blame on both sides.”
“You had a lot of people in that group (the Klan and neo- Nazi rally) that were there to innocently protest and very innocently protest…”
“You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”
In other words, both sides–the neo-Nazis and KKK people and the people who came out to protest their hateful rally–were morally equivalent. You know, like the Nazis who bombed London and the RAF who tried to stop them. Or the Nazis who ran the death camps and the Allied forces who liberated them. Or the Civil Rights workers in the Sixties who went to Alabama to register voters and the good ole boys who murdered them. Exactly the same. Equally to blame.
Well, they’re not. And all the spin (the White House sent out talking points today encouraging news outlets to blame both sides) or the parsing of Trump’s words, or the claims that that isn’t what he meant or that he isn’t really a racist down deep, can’t make them the same. As House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “There are no good neo-Nazis.”
And letting Trump get away with this means we’re okay with a President who sides with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists, one of whom said on TV today, “I’m sorta glad that them people got hit and I’m glad that girl died” (Justin Moore, Grand Dragon for the Loyal Knights of the KKK in Pelham) and another (neo-Nazi Christopher Cantwell) proclaimed, “We’re not nonviolent–we’ll f–king kill these people if we have to.”
It also means we’re okay with what’s likely to happen next as a result of Trump’s emboldening these people. (And just in case you don’t think Trump was doing that, look at what David Duke, the former head of the KKK, and Jason Kessler, the organizer of the rally, tweeted in response to Trump’s comments.)
Their representatives were on TV all day yesterday excitedly planning rallies (nine planned for this weekend), intimidation, and violence, convinced that Trump is on their side. Cantwell predicted “A lot more people are going to die before we’re done here,” and a twenty-three-year-old man was just arrested for attempting to bomb a bank building in Oklahoma City in tribute to Timothy McVeigh.
So what’s next? Another car driven into a crowd of peaceful protesters? Another Murrah Federal Building bombing? Another Kristallnacht?
I don’t know, but, listening all day to reporters say that Republicans are really, really upset with Trump but are afraid to call him out by name for fear of alienating “his base,” I can see exactly how Hitler happened. It was because people refused to speak up until it was too late. Or hoped it would all blow over. Or thought if they kept their heads down, like General Kelly, they’d be okay.
We won’t. We have to speak up.
Thankfully, a lot of people already have:
Charles Krauthammer, conservative columnist: “It was a moral disgrace.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: “It’s a disgrace that we still need to say that neo-Nazis and white supremacists are wrong–as if this is somehow not obvious.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumko: “On Tuesday President Trump stood in the lobby of his tower on 5th Avenue in Manhattan and again made excuses for bigotry and terrorism.”
The head of every branch of the military released statements that the military do not tolerate racism.
USA Today is calling for the Congress to censure President Trump.
Senator Patrick Leahy: “Mr. President, Heather Heyer was not murdered by both sides.”
Chuck Todd: “President Trump has likely lost moral authority to speak for the country and the Republican Party.”
J.K. Rowling: “One good thing about that abomination of a speech, it’s now impossible for any Trump supporter to pretend they don’t know what he is.”
And Tony Schwartz tweeted: “The end game is on. Trump goes down or we do. He will blow up the world to prove he matters. We must stand up in opposition every day.”
But it’s not enough. We need to speak up, too. Tweet. Write posts on Facebook. Call your Representatives and Senators. Call somebody else’s Representatives and Senators. Shout it to the rooftops! Tell them there’s no place in America for the KKK or Nazis! Or for a President who makes excuses for them, sides with them, and eggs them on!