As the Administration struggles—and fails—to find its voice on the events in Charlottesville, the rest of the political world seems blessedly free of equivocation. The killing of Heather Heyer was an act of homegrown domestic terrorism. The injuring of seventeen others was the American equivalent of the truck attack in Nice in 2016. Republicans and Democrats have been appropriately outraged, and have not hesitated to condemn white nationalism and white supremacism in all its forms.
Our President, in contrast, seemed painfully slow to name the event as a moment of genuine emergency and chose, instead, to assign blame to “both sides.” This is a patently false construction of this episode. When white supremacists gather with torches in an assault against fundamental American values, it is dangerous and wrong to pretend that counter-protesters have just as much to answer for. Like many, I assume that Mr. Trump has difficulty criticizing people who felt that his election was a signal that their moment on the national stage had arrived. David Duke is delighted with his new President. That is an incontrovertible sign that something has gone seriously wrong.
The President is now bemoaning the fact that the removal of Confederate memorials somehow compromises the health of American culture and impairs the telling of our national story. It is much more likely that the remaining statues will become rallying points for the resurgent radicalism of the far right. If there is a threat to our national well-being, it will come from nativism and the exclusionary nationalism of the Breitbart camp.
All of us have a job to do. We must call our President to account; support those who oppose racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-immigrant bias; take the risk of public action; and underscore the truth of Charlottesville. The health of our democracy has been profoundly shaken. All of us must be present, accounted for, and mobilized for the struggles ahead.
Rabbi Marc Boone Fitzerman