I was debating whether or not to write on the events of last weekend in Charlottesville. It seems a topic that plenty of authors, writers, bloggers, vloggers and 24 hour talking news heads have covered pretty thoroughly from every angle and perspective. During shabbat, however, this topic came up in conversation with a friend who insisted I write about my thoughts on the event and subsequent cluster that occurred in the days following.
Charlottesville is right in my backyard living as I do in Richmond, Virginia. To see the footage from that event is bone chilling. To hear the dismissive moral equivocating, by anyone, is at the same time disgusting and terrifying.
As a Jew, especially, I will not remain silent on the matter. What took place last friday night, the torch light procession through the University of Virginia, was textbook…TEXTBOOK…Nazi stylings. If you can not see that, then you have your head shoved so far up your rear you should be able to count your fillings. And Jews were especially called out. Above all other racial or ethnic groups this Neo-Nazi movement has their sights set on, Jews are at the top of that list, and both the Jewish community and our non-jewish allies must come to grips with that reality. Anything less is to repeat the mistakes of the past, of continuing with a shteitel mentality or the misguided idea that it can’t happen here. It can. And don’t think that loyalty to one political affiliation or another will save you from it.
The rally, some have claimed, was about a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee, and in its original inception perhaps it was. But it became a rallying cry to “Unite the Right”, to bring together all of the fractured elements of the so-called alt-right together in a massive display of strength. This was not a sudden last minute change. It was advertised as such weeks in advance. No longer were the organizers talking simply about some faux historical preservation but instead were prepared to deliver a clear message: this is a white christian country, unter–menschen are not welcome.
And to watch the President of the United States give, AT BEST, a limp wristed statement on the matter….seriously, it’s low hanging fruit, how hard is it to say, “Nazis bad”. His statement Tuesday was his true feelings on the matter. In the crowds of Nazis and Klansmen were “fine people”. You know Germany also had “fine people” who weren’t Nazis…they still turned a blind eye to genocide and for a reward American servicemen who liberated camps forced germans in the surrounding towns to witness the horror first hand, to clean up the death camps of the subhumans these “fine people” had no problem seeing disappear. “Fine people” don’t pal around with Nazis.
If we can not look for strong moral leadership from people who should be leading that charge then we must be that moral leadership for ourselves and our communities. While we should never curb the first amendment for anyone or any group, we should exercise our own right with numbers to dwarf them. It should not be taken lightly. Nothing about Nazis in large numbers marching down American streets ever should. Now is the time to stand up and be heard before it’s too late.