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Charlottesville lessons for US leaders: Be specific, be consistent

A vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. /The Daily Progress via AP)

Our country is on edge after the white nationalist rally and ensuing violence in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend that left one dead and injured more than 19 after a car, driven by white nationalist James Alex Fields, Jr., rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters.

President Donald Trump issued a statement (and several tweets) on Saturday condemning the violence, saying, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.”

What’s missing from Trump’s generic statements was his specific emphasis on condemning the white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists who convened on the small Virginian city looking to cause mayhem and violence. Trump’s misfire is certainly alarming — there’s no mistaking that. The White House is now pushing back that Trump’s condemnation “includes white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

On Monday, Trump issued a second public statement condemning the white nationalists, saying, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

But is this really good enough?

If Trump had called the enemy by its name the first time, similar to the way he criticized former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for not calling terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda as “Radical Islamic Terrorism,” we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

When James T. Hodgkinson, a Bernie Sanders supporter who held strong animosity for President Trump, opened fire, using an SKS 7.62×39 rifle and a 9-millimeter pistol, on congressional Republicans practicing for the annual charity baseball game, Sanders was quick to denounce his horrific actions that injured House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others. Not only was Hodgkinson roundly condemned by folks on both sides of the aisle, but also conservatives were quick to not assign blame to liberals and progressives, in general.

Let’s be clear, though, there are certainly radical elements within the Bernie Sanders/leftist wing on the Democratic party. In a similar fashion that former KKK grand wizard David Duke uses Trump’s name to justify his movement, leftist groups like Antifa, which perpetuates violence against conservatives, uses Sanders’ name. Of course, there is no moral equivalency that can be made between white nationalists/neo-Nazis and Antifa. Both are violent, but the former is far more evil than the latter.

And while Trump has condemned David Duke (albeit hesitantly) and white nationalism in the past, he should not have a problem to repeatedly and unequivocally condemn them. Sanders, on the other hand, condemned Antifa repeatedly, even those who attempted to shut down conservative speakers like Ann Coulter at UC-Berkeley.

And, despite Sanders’ repeated condemnation, Antifa continues their destructive behavior. But, at the very least, we know that Sanders doesn’t condone their actions.

Regardless of what Trump said following the horrific events in Charlottesville, it’s obvious that there’s little he could have done to please everyone.

But when it comes to white nationalist terrorism, we shouldn’t assign blame to all conservatives, just like we don’t assign blame to all Muslims when groups like the Islamic State brutally murder innocent people or all liberals when a lunatic opens fire on a congressional baseball practice.

America needs to do better, and it starts with consistency from both sides.


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