The white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville last weekend were at once a pathetic group of notorious hate-mongers, while at the same time, a frightening gathering of like-minded anti-Semites and racial bigots. They showed no restraint in spewing their venom, as they shouted “Jew will not replace us!” and chanted “The goyim know!” They carried signs that said “Jews are the children of Satan” and “Talmud is a child molester’s bible.” They waved Nazi flags emblazoned with swastikas and wore T-shirts quoting Adolf Hitler.
It was the largest public white supremacist gathering in more than a decade — reverberating with raw hatred — and was organized and populated by extremist groups from across the country that espouse Nazi ideology. The weekend ended in three deaths and numerous injuries.
On Monday, after two days of withering, bipartisan criticism for his unwillingness to call out the miscreants for the evil they are, President Donald Trump finally condemned the supremacist groups behind the rally — though he did not fully retract from his earlier bout of equivalence, when he blamed the violence and death on provocations from “many sides.”
In reaction to Trump’s verbal paralysis, politicians from both parties issued unequivocal statements of their own, like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who tweeted, “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
Trump’s reflexive reluctance to identify white supremacists by name immediately following the Charlottesville violence was reminiscent of candidate Trump’s repeated criticism of then-President Obama for his refusal to use the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” While that campaign criticism was effective, at least Obama never blamed the victims.
Anyone who’s been following the modern evolution of white supremacy in the United States knows that the racism and anti-Semitism spewed by supremacist bigots is, unfortunately, very much a part of the America we live in. Just look at the marchers in Charlottesville: Their faces, lit by torchlight, were the faces of our citizens. And although Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, urged them all to “go home,” McAuliffe’s commonwealth is as much the home to anti-Semitic vitriol as it is to those who find its ideology appalling.
Nor is the anger and hatred espoused by the so-called “alt-right” anything new. The Anti-Defamation League has been chronicling their activities for years, while other interactive projects, like Documenting Hate, are bringing together resources to track hate and bias crimes across the country.
We, as members of the oft-targeted Jewish community, have a particular responsibility to recognize and call out these vile hate groups for what they are: reflections of a most objectionable aspect of American society. And though we will fight to allow these offensive hoodlums the right to express their views — no matter how misdirected they may be — it must be the mission of everyone, from the president on down, to relegate their rhetoric, ideologies and very existence to the trash bin of the past. pjc