|Robert E. Lee, in what is now Charlottesvilles "Emancipation Park"|
The recent atrocity in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a useful lesson for American Conservatives in what it is like to be a Muslim these days.
We often complain that Muslims should speak out more loudly against Islamic terrorism. Now Conservatives are in the same position: have we spoken out loudly enough against the killer who drove his car into a crowd of Antifa protestors?
Yet if we do condemn, we are buying in to an offensive, bigoted premise: that these Islamist terrorists, that this driver, have something to do with us and with what we believe. That we bear responsibility, more than more than Baptists or Democrats do. It is a perfect Catch-22. Either way, we are scapegoated.
At the same time, it seems to herd us unwilling into accepting and endorsing a claim that the other side, which we oppose, holds some moral high ground. The truth is, Muslims really do believe, with cause, that modern Western culture is morally depraved. Similarly, those of us on the right believe that the current resort to public violence began on the left, and so the left must take responsibility, indeed, primary responsibility, for this. We believe that racism is a general problem on the left, and vanishingly rare on the right. We believe that the left is morally depraved on matters such as abortion. Why must we feed this monster?
Nevertheless, we must not remain innocent bystanders. Let me get my condemnations in:
I condemn the city of Charlottesville, in the first place, for planning to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee. This provoked the entire affair, and it was an unprovoked act of aggression against the heritage of an identifiable group among its citizens. It was founded on anti-white prejudice.
I condemn the views of some of the groups that organized the protest against this, if the reports are true that some of them were racist. I read that participants included the KKK. As a Catholic, I obviously oppose the traditional views of the KKK. As a Christian, I necessarily condemn all racism. We must use caution here, however, because it has become standard practice on the left to declare any group on the right “racist.” So we never know when we are being fed false information.
I condemn equally the well-known racist groups on the other side, such as “Black Lives Matter.”
I support the right of all such groups to hold a public demonstration. This is an issue of freedom of speech and of assembly. That said, public demonstrations are generally not helpful or useful in a functioning democracy. And there is no justification for a riot.
I condemn in stronger terms holding “counter-demonstrations.” This looks like an attempt to interfere with another’s free speech. If and when held, such counter-demonstrations must be kept far away from the original demonstration they seek to “counter.”
I condemn, therefore, if the charges are true, the “stand-down” of the Charlottesville police, allowing the two groups to clash. This is exactly the factor that led to the rise of the Nazis in Germany: the police and authorities would not interfere, allowing the stronger gang to work their will.
I condemn the driver of the car, who is, so far as we can see from the available evidence, a murderer. He should be prosecuted for this, as should anyone else who did likewise. I oppose the death penalty, but life in prison seems just.
I condemn those who try to make all the other “right-wing” protestors, who in all probability are entirely innocent of this crime, collectively guilty because they presumably share roughly the same political views as the perpetrator. This is simple bigotry and prejudice.
I condemn those who try to use this to scapegoat. The mayor of Charlottesville, for example, blamed it all on Donald Trump. This ought to be actionable as slander.
I condemn those who have condemned Trump for condemning the apparent hatred on “many sides.” This was the only honourable line to take, in the circumstances.
This was not like a “terrorist” incident, in which violence is unleashed on unsuspecting civilians going about their lives. This was a clash of two opposing sides. That is a different moral equation. Although it does not make escalation okay.