On August 11 and 12 hundreds of avowed white supremacists converged on Charlottesville, Virginia, protesting the city’s decision to remove a prominent statue of Robert E. Lee in a symbolic step away from celebrating the Confederacy’s failed attempt to preserve chattel slavery in America. The highly publicized stunt naturally brought out counter-protesters. It is not surprising that the neo-Nazi “blood and soil” rhetoric of the white supremacists incited violence between the two groups — including that of a murderous person who intentionally drove an automobile at high speed into a crowd of counter-protesters, then backed out and tried to flee.
The governor of Virginia decried the hatred-spewing bigotry of the protestors and declared a state of emergency. In a near-universal response, many others quickly spoke out to condemn such a visceral display of blatant prejudice.
But not our president, who knows that the fringe right is the core of his “base.” Oh, he took time out at his posh golf club to say “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence.” Good so far. But then he added “On many sides.” And if that was not clear enough, he repeated it: “On many sides.”
Those three words completely gutted his statement of condemnation by removing responsibility for the travesty from the hate-mongering white supremacists and pretending that those who opposed them were just as guilty of hatred and bigotry as the true instigators.
In doing so, he sent a clear message of empowerment for anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-enlightenment activists, who now have “Lock-her-up!” style presidential permission to perceive their bigotry as no more hateful than those who defend human rights for all people.
With every abrasive and irresponsible tweet, with every foreign-policy-shaking playground taunt, many wonder how much lower this current presidency can sink. By projecting the odious attitudes of hate-mongering white supremacists onto “many sides … on many sides,” the ego-in-chief has taken the office to a new — and fearsomely dangerous — low.