Charlottesville, Virginia provided the stage for the starkest contrast in 21st century American values to date.
What is there even to say anymore? We live in a white supremacist country that has always been white supremacist. The only question is to what degree.
Median white wealth of those with at least some college experience is nearly eight times that of African Americans who have attended college, yet pockets of white America have convinced themselves that they are so marginalized that it justifies murder just to “win” some amorphous battle for respect. These are dark times, and we just experienced one of our darkest days in modern history. A white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia just employed the exact same terrorist tactic that ISIS recently endorsed and executed. The video of the attack is difficult to watch, but we cannot shield ourselves from the truth right now.
My grandfather fought against the Nazis in World War II, and a year after he passed away, we elected a president who denounces violence on “all sides” after a Nazi killed at least one person and injured at least 19. It's hard to look at the present American experiment as anything other than an abject failure of our stated goals. What does it mean to be an American these days? Over the past few decades, we have been retreating into our own camps, and creating media ecosystems that tell us that we are the One True Righteous People, and Those People are the problem. The problem is that all of Those People are Americans.
This issue has drastically deteriorated on the right, to the point where some live in such an unreality that they actually become convinced that white American men are the persecuted class in this country, despite all evidence to the contrary. The Republican Party cynically dog whistled towards the fascist undertones that have forever ebbed and flowed within our society, and they did it to such a degree that it finally devoured them in 2016. The party of Reagan is now the party of fascism.
This isn't both sides' fault. Yes, overwrought PC culture has spawned a wave of blowback that helped get us to President Trump, but those claiming it helped lead to the violence in Charlottesville are removing the agency from the criminal in this act, and the charged rhetoric spread throughout this movement by entities like the NRA. There is a violent strain in America that has always wanted to take up arms against the status quo, and drag us back closer to an era where the law agreed that human beings could be property. Donald Trump gave them a voice and he continues to do so.
This shameful day in our history isn't completely hopeless. Even though those in the seat of power continue to enable some of the worst forces in America, many prominent Republicans seem to be publicly addressing what they have enabled. Here's a sampling.
The hypocrisy of their tacit support for this madness for years undercuts their statements opposing bigotry, but it is not meaningless that Republicans felt compelled to do so, and we should provide space to applaud their current efforts while denouncing their inaction up to this point. We don't have time for purity battles right now—we need all the help we can get. The events of Charlottesville seem to have forced the remaining holdouts in this country to forcefully address the ugly undercurrent radiating throughout America's complicated history. We can only hope and pray that this weekend was not an escalation in our ongoing Cold Civil War, and that the day truly is darkest before the dawn.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.