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Promotin’ the General Welfare

Rebirth of a Notion

On Saturday, August 12th, 2017, competing protesters met on the streets of Charlottesville, VA, to make their respective cases for and against a more inclusive America. Call it America homogenous v. America heterogeneous. 


Sadly, on a day when more than enough chaos and confusion ensued, a young White Supremacist-turned-domestic terrorist drove his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, herself among supporting a more inclusive vision of this country.


Increasingly, there is a general sense of unease resulting from Mr. Trump’s actions, ideas, and words. Taken together, they are unsettling and difficult to dismiss or overlook. For some, it is easier to avoid addressing this disturbing feeling; for others, there is no sense that anything at all is wrong. But the Charlottesville attack is the frightening outcome rising from a certain disgruntled, displaced segment of our population that wants to deny and do away with real America, itself a truly diverse and inclusive society.     


Not since Woodrow Wilson has an American president openly given safe harbor to hate-groups and domestic terrorists; and thanks to Mr. Trump’s coziness with such offensive ideologies, those favoring the vision of a homogenous America have stepped up their game and into the limelight.


The torch-lit evening march to Robert E. Lee’s statue on Friday, August 11th, was as bold and abhorrent a public action as any of the KKK’s planned daytime marches. It was not only more daring in its defiance, but it laid the groundwork for the calamitous environment surrounding the next day’s events.


Since Dylann Roof upped the ante in the killing of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church in June 2015, racially and religiously-motivated attacks have increased in our country. Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric and inflammatory comments as president have only served to intensify what has become a more incendiary situation. Most of the attacks have been confined to one-on-one acts of violence: the brutal killing of a black man in New York City at the hands of a white man from Maryland; in Portland, the killing of two persons attempting to stop a white man ranting racist and religious slurs at two seemingly Muslim women.  


These are just two examples, but make no mistake: Donald Trump’s tacit approval of White Nationalist/Supremacist thought gives credence and legitimacy in a way that borders on being unofficial public policy.  


Trump, belligerent, loves playing the tough guy with his “rough ’em up” lingo and John Wayne-posturing. But this is no reality show where the stakes are merely for better ratings. The well-being of real people is at risk. The president has been reluctant to alienate his hate-group constituency, and although he is forced to acknowledge hate-group thought and actions as “bad,” he does so begrudgingly, and is quick to decry the actions of the opposition as well.  


On the day of the Charlottesville attack, in his statement denouncing the violence, he felt the need to place blame on those from “many sides” – this was the president in a sincere, honest moment. No amount of contrition implied in his scripted comments two days later could counter his original statement. Even later that day, his sarcasm and contempt toward reporters betrayed him – he was clearly annoyed that the media, his arch-enemy, continued to pester him on the matter.


Leave it to the man who can’t help but say what he means. By Tuesday, August 15th, the president expressed himself as candidly as his wont – on that day, he challenged a reporter to define the “alt-right” and countered with questions about the actions of the “alt-left”.  


Ah, Mr. Trump, how well do we know thee?


Trump’s recent pardon of former Maricopa (AZ) County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is more than a subtle nod to de facto, state-sanctioned discrimination. It goes hand-in-hand with ideas he expressed when speaking to a gathering of law enforcement officers on Long Island earlier this summer, suggesting that police refrain from being “too nice” to criminal suspects.  


Mr. Trump is doing more than dog whistling these days. He’s out and out advocating a perfectly reasonable position in favor of racially and religiously-motivated bias and all the ills that come with such thinking. He practically encourages his core constituency to sniff out any whiff of all things un-American. And if it smells or smacks of something other than true-blue, God-fearing, good ole’ American patriotism, root it out and turn ‘em in.


Anyone who continues to support Mr. Trump surely runs the risk of being branded a racist. There is no excusing his failure to find serious fault with the actions of racists rallying against real America. Those who came out to “unite the right” in Charlottesville and elsewhere invalidate the humanity of so many American citizens. They see an America as beautiful only when its history is whitewashed, bleached of any blemish or contribution made by the “other.”


But now, Mr. Trump, in his role as president, validates their ideas by refusing even to fake it and pretend that these are “bad people.” Rather, he suggested that indeed there were “good people” who came out to oppose removal of the Confederate monument in Charlottesville. But exactly what kind of “good people” choose to align themselves with White Supremacists, Nazis, and the KKK? It’s no wonder racists from all walks of life feel so emboldened to take back their streets and “Make America Great Again” in such an audacious fashion.


It is heartening to see so many step up and sound off against the voices of hate, but will that be enough to stem the tide of so many rising to “reclaim America” for the “white race," especially when the president of our nation refuses to put to rest once and for all that he is sympathetic to their concerns?


As Woodrow Wilson demonstrated a little over one hundred years ago, being President does not automatically elevate or improve one’s moral stature. Wilson all but endorsed the actions of the KKK and others who wished to keep America right for the White race. Is Donald Trump the second coming of such a notion? If so, our troubles have only just begun.


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The text above is a column and expresses only the opinion of the author, not NOLA Defender or NOLA Defender’s Editorial Board.

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