Things that have many sides: a Rubik’s cube, a baseball diamond, a complex personality. Things that don’t: the racism and hate seen in Charlottesville this weekend.
Alas, our president doesn’t seem to know the difference. No, that’s too generous. He must know, but he does not care. Or worse, he would rather allow the confusion than endanger his base of support.
On Friday night and Saturday morning, Ku Klux Klan members, would-be Nazis and open white supremacists marched under President Trump’s name. Former Klan leader David Duke, speaking at the rally that sparked this wretched affair, crowed that the marchers were going to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” to “take our country back.” His friends and followers spewed repugnant rhetoric and fought with counter-protesters. Three people are dead. But rather than swiftly condemning the instigators of this violence, as a president should, Trump kept silent. And when he finally did break from his golf vacation, his statements were a disgrace.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”
Our country is one of free speech and open debate: about our policies, our priorities, the best solutions to our ills. The First Amendment applies to all, even vile white supremacists. But when it comes to accurately describing what they are and what they do, and when it comes to assigning blame — yes, blame — for the consequences of their actions, there aren’t many sides to the issue. There is good, and there is evil. There are those who represent our country’s values, and those who stand against them. There is domestic terrorism, and there are its targets.
As the leader of our nation, our president should know that some conflicts don’t deserve forbearance or false equivalence. There weren’t many sides in Charlottesville. There were two. Through his cowardice, complicity and unwillingness to confront what he has enabled, President Trump has chosen the wrong one.