Here in Charlottesville, Donald Trump has taken away our sense of safety
Those of us that live here knew the Unite the Right rally was coming. We knew there’d be Nazis from all over the country descending on Charlottesville. In most local’s minds, we expected a larger version of a July event when dozens of North Carolina KKK drove into town, protested a while, and went back home. Locals would be angry, it would be in the national news for a day, and we’d all go back to work on Monday.
We should have listened to activitists like Emily Gorcenski who warned us this time would be tragically different.
The Nazi intimidation of Charlottesville went far beyond the actual rally. Intimidation started Friday at the University, where Nazis surrounded teenage University students who stood arm in arm around a statue of Thomas Jefferson
It continued Saturday with the tragic death of Heather Heyer by James Fields. And further with the deaths of two Virginia state troopers H. Jay Cullen and M. M. Bates. Saturday also included the beating of Deandre Harris, a teacher’s assistant at my son’s elementary school.
It didn’t end until Monday when Matthew Heimbach came and promised they’d be back. Whatever other crazy he spouted, promising they’d come back chilled Charlottesville residents to the bone.
The Nazi intimidation stories you haven’t heard
The more you talk to people around Charlottesville, the more you hear hundreds of little stories about Nazis bullying locals, vandalizing, and making threats throughout the weekend.
On Sunday I took my son for a haircut. As I drove back into our neighborhood, I witnessed a verbal altercation between my black neighbor and two Nazis. I am ashamed to say, fearing for my son, that I kept driving. When I got my son home, I walked up to the street corner and the Nazis were gone. I couldn’t sleep that night of shame for not standing up for my neighbor.
Sunday morning I took my two year old son jogging. We jogged by Wesley Memorial Methodist Church. Little old ladies were sweeping car glass. Cars with slash tires were all throughout the lot. Apparently Nazis had come through Friday evening during their torch-lite march and vandalized the church, broken car windows, and slashed tires.
Hundreds of other little stories abound, including little things like cars driving 20 mph down our major highway for the sole purpose of disruption. Nazis waving guns at Walmart. Tire fires in the highway.
I learned from folks at the University, that Nazis thoroughly coordinated Friday night’s rally to maximize terror. They chose a location where very few police would be stationed. They further dispersed the police by calling in bomb threats at distant locations. They told University officials there’d be a “minor gathering” there which turned out anything but.
There’s not two sides
Whatever brawls broke out Saturday at the short-lived rally, there’s one guilty side here: the Nazis that systematically terrorized my town all weekend. The whole weekend was a systematic, coordinated spree of intimidation.
The “other side”, aka the people who live here, didn’t ask for this. We had to choose between leaving town in fear, hunkering down at home, or getting caught up in the counterprotests. We couldn’t live our lives last weekend. We didn’t feel safe.
To keep our kids safe, we took them to a Zoo an hour away. We kept a smiling face with the kids, while we stared in shock at our twitter feeds. It felt like living a lie, adults whispering too each other about what’s happening. Adults trying to focus on having fun with kids. Meanwhile a Nazi is driving a car into a group of counter protestors where our kids have strolled hundreds of times.
Those who keep believing a “two sides” narrative insult those of us who lived through this. Antifa, the “alt left” or whatever fake boogeyman didn’t plan this event. They didn’t work hard to make us feel unsafe. That responsibility falls squarely on racist Alt Right Nazis.
A president interprets our country’s founding principles. By legitimizing Nazis, President Trump aligns these principles to the intimidation and terror. By saying “fine people” marched with white supremacists, he creates a loophole where you can be both a terrorist and a patriot.
This is what makes us feel most intimidated. Our town now sits prone, vulnerable to enabled so-called “patriots” who feel it is their constitutional duty to purge the United States of non-whites and the political opposition. Millions more Americans who don’t pay attention can go back to work, comforted by notions of “well both sides are bad.”
Meanwhile, white supremacists like David Duke and Nazi newspaper the Daily Stormer interpret Trump’s words as support. They’ll continue to act as though, as David Duke puts it, they “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” How hard is it to denounce thoroughly enough as to not leave David Duke and the Daily Stormer in doubt? Arnold Schwarzenegger and Nordstroms know exactly where Donald Trump stands on them.
We feel unsafe, knowing this “two sides” narrative molifies the complacent while the Nazis feel free to terrorize in the name of the President of the United States.
Donald Trump crafted this narrative. He bears responsibility not only for inviting these people into his coalition, but also continuing to flirt with extremists. By letting Nazis feel like patriots, he brought this to our town.
Missing Comfort and Closure
Tragedy happens. As a Virginia Tech alumni, I remember the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007. An unexpected tragedy that built through the day, and left me heartbroken. But watch President what George W. Bush did:
I didn’t vote for President Bush. At the time, I considered his presidency a disaster. But he was able to help us heal. When he gave this speech, his approval rating was close to 30%. He probably wasn’t particularly popular in the liberal University town where Blacksburg is located.
Yet the University, and Virginia’s leadership welcomed his guidance and comfort. Governor Tim Kaine praised Bush. Bush was able to emote beyond reptillian instincts or ego protection. Bush did not see himself as the biggest victim of the Virginia Tech shooting. He spoke with humility and students appreciated his presence and words, despite being an even more unpopular president than Trump is today.
In many ways the Charlottesville tragedy remains an open wound in a way many others have turned into scars. We have no closure and there’s nobody coming to re-establish our sense of community or redirect the moral impulses of our country towards a healthy direction.
The one-two punch. It’s not getting better
With nobody to comfort the victims. And the Nazis even more empowered to terrorize, it’s a huge gut punch. Not only did we experience a thoroughly unexpected tragedy, we will receive no help. Our country’s moral universe seems to be wrapping itself around Nazis. Simultaneously, the GOP, who have power to do something, continue to prevaricate, letting themselves be lead by Trump voters.
Not only did a tragedy happen, the odds of another happening have gone up, and we’re on our own. Nobody is riding to our rescue. Things feel like they’ll only get worse. Much of the public has chosen to be decieved. And Charlottesville, the home town of Thomas Jefferson, is now on the front lines.