What the media initially called “The largest white supremacist rally” in the USA in decades ended all doubt that violent confrontation will not be opposed by federal intervention as has been counted on for the last 50 years. In cases of civil unrest the federal government takes marching orders from the President of the United States. The highest ranking person to tell the coalition of white supremacists to go home was the Governor of Virginia, where the aborted rally ended early and tragically. President Trump was remarkably reticent to unleash his famous rage against the organizers of the rally or the participants, or even the terrorist car driver from Ohio who committed the only murder in the rancorous confrontation. The white supremacist participants waved Nazi flags and the “Stars and Bars” battle flag of the Confederacy, shouted Nazi slogans and threats as well as obscenities of more recent provenance.
For months the right wing of the Republican Party and those who voted for Trump have objected to inferences there were parallels between the USA today and Germany in the early 1930s when Nazis came to power. That objection was decimated last weekend in Charlottesville. US alt-right white supremacists showed their colors and the President hesitated to denounce them, leaving the Ku Klux Klan and rally organizers relieved and expressing new confidence. The images in the media were very powerful of hundreds marching with torches this week end, side-by-side with eerily similar pictures from the Nuremburg Rally of 1934 that consolidated Hitler’s fame. The battle flags of the white supremacists are cut from the same cloth as the ones with swastikas of Aryan supremacists in Germany.
Events in Charlottesville clarified several issues that moderate Trump supporters have tried to obfuscate. There is a direct line between Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign and the emboldened, out-in-the-open rise of white-supremacist hate-groups. These groups are fighting to retain white male power against the trend toward racial and cultural diversity in the USA. Two times in history identical campaigns were launched, the insurrection of the Confederacy that led to the Civil War of 1860-1865, and the Nazi plan to establish the Aryan race as the dominant power in Europe and “tomorrow the world.” The name for this is racism.
With dwindling hope that the US government will defend the people against its racists, the strategies missed in the 1930s appear more likely than ever. At least three times there was the possibility of civil rebellion to oppose the Nazis, but the will to take the risk was never great enough. In the USA the situation is different. The militant left is not pacifist and the Black Lives Matter movement has already identified armed white men in uniform as enemy. The BBC named a faction of Black Lives Matter as the ones actively battling the white supremacist rally marchers last weekend. They are the ideological heirs of the Black Panthers of the 1970s and 70s. The USA has a deep-rooted culture of violence. Killing people has always been the way to finally sort things out and clarify who is in control.
One might hope for a massive uprising of the peace-loving public to eclipse the new Nazis. Always, passive and pacifist alternatives to violent socio-political change depend on the pacifists outnumbering by an overwhelming margin those armed for battle. It is unclear what it would take to motivate them to put down their cell phones and show up in huge numbers – oh, wait! Women in knitted pink pussy-cat hats did that in January. In Charlottesville a whole church-full of clergy showed peaceful resistance. Now here’s the rub: the official response from the President and his spokespersons was to lump the peace advocates with the militants as all guilty of causing trouble … and of interrupting the President’s golfing vacation where he was taking a break from goading North Korea into war. As was the case in January, the peace-makers in Charlottesville got neither credit nor support from the government.
After last week’s poor showing from Washington when no one supported or praised the passive counter-protesters, the chances are increased that the USA will resort to type. I asked on Facebook, “Is this the way the second civil war starts?” The only person who responded said, “Yes.”
Note:The New Yorker published this noteworthy piece this week "Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?"
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.