Well. That was bracing!
As if we are witnessing a weekly detective drama, an hour of evasions and denials are shattered by an angry, climactic confession. I did it and I’m glad I did it!
It first took two days to go from this:
…hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides.
…criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.
President Trump had gone from the sound of one hand clapping (on many sides) to a grudging admission that neo-Nazis and white supremacists, no matter what alt-right euphemisms they hid behind, were wrong and un-American. It should not have been an admission. Others had no hesitation at recognizing moral clarity.
But in his heart of hearts, it had to have burned. The deep resentment at being made to say something, anything, especially what he simply did not believe, became too much.
Such moments do come in fiction. As innocent victims are about to be found guilty, the defenders know they have only one slim hope.
The one who is guilty must somehow be provoked into a public confession:
And now you think you can get him to just say it?
I think he wants to say it. I think he’s pissed off that he’s gotta hide from this. I think he wants to say that he made a command decision and that’s the end of it.
– From A Few Good Men, 1992
And so the anger comes.
You can’t HANDLE the truth.
…then the confession
Did you order the Code Red?
You’re God damn right I did!
But in real life?
The seething anger, at turning from his core beliefs, at being forced to say what he clearly did not want to say: Such submission to lesser beings is for losers.
It took a single day of pent up rage to go from this:
…criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans
Yes. I do think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides and I have no doubt about it and you don’t have any doubt about it either…
He flailed for a legitimate reason to backtrack, to backtrack without admitting he was backtracking. Suddenly, a host of people marching alongside of white supremacists in a demonstration organized for the purpose of uniting white nationalists, were transformed into gentle people of good will, not racists at all.
I’ve condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch.
Not by any stretch.
So they marched alongside Nazis carrying torches and firearms. They shouted out slogans. But they were not racists. The chants were incidental. They simply wanted to maintain icons that were always meant to celebrate their historic heritage.
You’re changing history. You’re changing culture and you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists because they should be condemned, totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.
He parroted what I have heard for all of my adult life from organized apologists for Confederate principles. The celebration of that confederate heritage, a heritage of organized violence in defense of slavery, is simply a defense of history itself. If we do not celebrate those who took up arms to defend slavery, why do we not tear down acknowledgement of the original founders of our nation?
So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself where does it stop?
Yes, where does it stop?
We should indeed have honest discussions about what conservatives such as Condoleezza Rice have called America’s birth defect. I have some trouble with the fact that, as the fight for American liberty went on, over forty slaves managed to achieve their own freedom only by escaping the plantations of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
The writings of those founders do reveal an edge of regret, a recognition that the evil in which they participated must soon end. From Thomas Jefferson, writing about slavery:
I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep for ever…
The contradiction between ideals and practice is something we need to confront. It incites our collective conscience. It provokes, as it must, occasional restless nights.
And yet, our nation, for all its torments and failures, has advanced. The arc of the moral universe is way too long, but we pray Martin Luther King was right about the direction of that arc. For all their sins, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson wrote and signed and dedicated their sacred honor to what Lincoln later described as a proposition. They set us firmly in a direction.
They did not send their brethren to fight and die to keep fellow human beings in chains.
Many of the monuments in question today were constructed less to honor historical figures than to signify resistance to the idea of equality. Many were erected decades after the Civil War as the KKK arose and lynchings became commonplace. They were dedicated to that violence. More statues were added half a century later in opposition to civil rights.
The Charlottesville demonstrations to keep those monuments were expressly organized to promote racial solidarity among white nationalist groups, to join them together into what organizers hoped would become a unified national racist movement.
The Nazi salutes, the Nazi chants from the 1930s, the menacing display of firearms left little doubt about what was on display. If it quacks like a Nazi… Still, my President now insists that any number of those who joined in those demonstrations were not themselves racists.
President Trump has not been noted for the virtue of personal loyalty. He demands it but does not return it. The White House lawn is littered with the bodies of political loyalists. He is an employer jealous of attention and ready to turn on those he suspects of stealing that precious commodity.
Outside of his staff, his deepest wrath is reserved for outsiders, strangers, those who speak against him, those whose words sting, those whom he sees as his inferiors, the losers in life. How dare they!
But his more global loyalty toward those who fawn over him, those who say nice things about him, those who support him: that loyalty is rock solid. White nationalists are a sort of domestic Vladimir Putin. They are not to be targeted with more than the most even handed commentary. If Vladimir kills, well… the murders happen on many sides — “on many sides.”
The supporters of the President have his back.
I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay?
His base would stand with him, no matter whom he killed.
My President demonstrates to that base that he feels the same toward them.
I think he wants to say it. I think he’s pissed off that he’s gotta hide from this.
“And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now.
A wonderful young woman is dead and 19 more are wounded by an act of terrorism.
“I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it.”
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