Sunday, August 13, 2017

Racist or Antisemite? No. Responsible? At Some Level, Yes.

Demonstrators clash in Charlottesville (CNN)
Once again Trump’s ineptitude is being misinterpreted. From the Boston Globe, here is what happened: 
The city of Charlottesville was engulfed by violence Saturday as white nationalists and counter protesters clashed in one of the bloodiest fights to date over the removal of Confederate monuments across the South.
White nationalists had long planned a demonstration over the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. But the rally quickly exploded into racial taunting, shoving, and outright brawling, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency and the National Guard to join police in clearing the area. 
From ABC News this is the response from President Trump: 
President Donald Trump is condemning "in the strongest possible terms" what he's calling an "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides" after clashes at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. 
As he was leaving  the press conference where he stated this, he was asked by a reporter whether he wanted the support of those people. He turned away without answering her - with a look of disgust on his face. Some might take this as indicating that he does not want to disavow their support. I see it as being so disgusted by the question that he didn’t deem it worthy of a response. He is obviously sick and tired of being called a bigot at any level. It’s too bad that he keeps doing things to reinforce that image. And that there is a media willing to assume the worst.

One of the many things that is predictable about the President is his ineptitude at expressing his views on a variety of issues. His critics are focusing on the following portion of his response: ‘violence on many sides’.  He seemed to be equating the anti bigotry counter demonstrators with the racists demonstrators. Some are saying that this is yet another example of Trump’s latent bigotry and antisemitism.

It is true that he seemed to be blaming the violence on both sides. But does that mean he sees them in equal terms? I don’t thinks so. To use this as a proof that in the deepest recesses of his mind he is a bigot and somehow supports these people flies in the face of a lifetime of racial and religious tolerance. For example as it applies to antisemitism there is no possible way that a father who so dotes over his Jewish daughter, and values his Jewish son in law as much as he does – that he could at the same time be some kind of antisemite . It goes against all common sense.

I say this as a Jew - someone who those antisemites would lynch if they could get away with it! If anyone should be disappointed at Trump’s reaction it should be me. But I can’t jump on the ‘Trump is a racist and antisemite’ bandwagon because I just don’t think he is. 

As an aside, I’m glad that at least his daughter came out and said what her father didn’t. From Business Insider
"There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis," Ivanka Trump  tweeted  on Sunday morning. 
Unfortunately it isn’t only his critics that interpret him that way. It is the very bigots that he condemned. They see it as some sort of ‘sly’ support that he said  ‘violence on many sides’ - in effect blaming the counter protesters as much as the bigots. Thus somehow supporting the bigots.  But that is ridiculous on its face. He clearly condemned racism. That he didn’t call out the specific racists is in large part due to his ineptitude, in my view.

That said I have to ask, does the President share any responsibility in what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia? In a very limited and unintentional way, yes I think he does.  On the one hand those Neo Nazis, racists, and white supremacists did not become racists because of Donald Trump. They have been racist before they ever heard of Trump.

On the other hand, once they became aware of Trump and his campaign, many of them believed they had been given license to be more proactive in expressing their views. They supported a man they believed might be one of them but in the ‘closet’ about it. And now that he is in office, their license to express those views has been multiplied

The protests in Charlottesville were about the city removing a statue of Confederate General, Robert E. Lee. This was a perfect opportunity for them to stage a protest. Protesting the removal of a Southern icon would bring them support they would not otherwise get.

They applied for a permit, got one, and held their rally. This was met with a counter demonstration.

That there are counter demonstrations  against bigotry is just fine. People have a right express their views. But when things turn violent – it is not fine. Things escalated to the point of violence and death as some deranged bigot decided to drive his car into the crowd of counter demonstrators, killing one person and injuring 19 others.

I am not blaming the victims here. But I have to wonder what would have happened had there been no counter demonstration. If those racists and neo Nazis would have been ignored, no one would have gotten hurt. And there would have hardly been any media publicity about it.

Now I take a second place to no one when it comes to opposing bigotry in all its forms. As a Jew and subject of their hatred that should be obvious. That it exists in even relatively minuscule numbers in this country is unacceptable. It ought to be eradicated. And the President isn’t helping. His ineptitude as demonstrated here once again - does the exact opposite.

But neither does it help when there are counter protests that have the potential for violence. Had anyone asked me, I would have said ‘don’t do it’. Ignore them. Let them have their demonstration. No decent human being will be swayed by these bigots.

To the extent that there was a will to express opposition - it should have verbal or in print – away from the site. If that had happened the three people that died (directly and indirectly) would still be alive and there would not have been an estimated 34 total injuries. There is a right time to protest where violence is justified. In my view this was not one of those times.