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The Charlottesville Sequel: No Cause for Celebration (August 2018)

Happy Elul!

This is a “good news, bad news” column about the Charlottesville anniversary and continuing concerns about the resurgence of white nationalists and white supremacists in our midst.

The good news is that the much-anticipated white supremacist rally in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the first anniversary of the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia, that took place on Sunday afternoon was a dud. While Jason Kessler, a leader of last year’s tragic march as well as this one, predicted 400 attendees, only about 20 showed up. They were heavily guarded by police and heavily outnumbered by large crowds of counter-protestors. They gathered, fittingly, in front of the White House. Our president, once again, took the opportunity to miss the opportunity to explicitly condemn white supremacists. In his Saturday tweet, he condemned “all types of racism,” a bland and parve comment. Perhaps if he could be as forceful in his condemnation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis as he is of NFL athletes protesting racial injustice and people like Lebron James and CNN’s Don Lemon we would be in a much better place.

Now for the bad news. In The Atlantic, Adam Serwer writes that while the white nationalist movement has struggled in the wake of Charlottesville, its ideology has taken hold within the mainstream Republican Party, as evidenced by ongoing diatribes by Fox News commentators and by increasing numbers of office seekers espousing racist, anti-Semitic (including Holocaust denial) and other xenophobic prejudices. I wrote about this phenomenon a few months ago. While most of these have lost their races, a few have won, and the very fact that their hate speech has become part of the fabric of mainstream political discourse is a cause for alarm.

There is a brand new CBS poll about racial tensions in America which offers one more glimpse about how badly our country is divided. While 61% of those polled think that racial tensions have increased in the past year, 78% of blacks and 56% of whites feel this way. As to how President Trump’s handling of racial issues is viewed, 58% disapprove while 41% approve. When this question is filtered by party affiliation, 90% of Democrats disapprove while 83% of Republicans approve of the president’s handling of racial issues. I find this absolutely astounding. First, it speaks to how badly divided we are as a society along party lines. And second, virtually every organization that tracks the rise of hate crimes and hate speech over the past few years directly attributes these trends to the rise of President Trump and “Trumpism.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has been quite explicit in their condemnations; the ADL is not far behind.

A very strong argument for Trump’s racism is made by Juan Williams, now a Fox News commentator (not among the aforementioned in the previous paragraph) and a New York Times best-selling author. His new book, What the Hell Do You Have To Lose: Trump’s War on Civil Rights, comes out next month. The title speaks for itself.

Lastly, speaking of the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), they just issued a first-of-its-kind interactive and customizable map detailing extremist and anti-Semitic incidents around the nation. Called the “H.E.A.T. Map” (Hate, Extremism, Anti-Semitism and Terrorism), the information is based on news and media reports, government documents (including police reports), victim reports, extremist-related sources, the ADL’s Center on Extremism investigations and more. The map documents the rise of hate and extremist violence around the country in the last few years, including here in Massachusetts.

Rabbi Mike

Sat, September 22 2018 13 Tishrei 5779