America President Donald Trump’s rather meek and non-specific response to the death of three people – most prominently an anti-neo-Nazi demonstrator – has, seemingly, half of America up in arms. In his short tenure, Trump is no stranger to either controversy or opposition, however, in this instance, it is very much a case of what he didn’t say that has incensed so many.
In rendering his observations he chose to inject the phrase, “ … violence on… many sides, many sides…” into his delivery and it is that inference that has outraged.
The parties consisted, on the one hand, of ‘ ethno-conservatives’ – a polite name for white supremacists – neo-Nazis and elements of the Ku Klux Klan. These vehemently white supremacist and white nationalist (‘alt-right’) groups were opposed by many protesting their gathering. The anti-alt-right demonstrators included Heather Heyer, the young woman killed. The alt-rightists had assembled to display their deep chagrin at the removal of a statue commemorating the Confederate general, Robert E. Lee. The two state troopers died when their helicopter crashed as they responded to a flare-up between the two parties early on Saturday, 12th August.
President Trump felt beholden to pass comment on the violence that had gripped Charlottesville, but displaying his de rigueur tone-deafness, his statement appeared to pass totally uncritically over the menace posed by the alt-rightists, and infer that the anti-white-rightist demonstrators were somehow aggressively complicit.
These are exceptionally trying times for the United States.
It is currently engaged in a bombastic nuclear stand-off with North Korea, America’s European allies are growing ever more suspicious of Trump’s isolationist rhetoric and Trump just won’t utter a derogatory word about Vladimir Putin, the Russian Federation’s president, even though there exists overwhelming evidence that Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 US elections. This rather perfunctory summation denotes merely a few of the nettlesome issues that ail Trump’s America. Now, added to a rather lengthy list, is Trump’s tacit endorsement of, and support for, white-fuelled hatred and bigotry.
It only takes two synapses to fire to recall the candidate’s rather searing, naked attack on Mexicans; you remember, the one wherein he referred to them as ‘rapists, killers and drug-dealers.’ Trump’s fondly-held base comprises, no doubt, an indeterminate number of those Caucasian Americans who perceive themselves to be down-trodden, forgotten and non-privileged. Trust Trump to have verbally manipulated these folk into believing that they may be down-trodden, forgotten and non-privileged, but, nudge-nudge, at least, they’re not Mexican.
Understandably, it is on more national matters that Trump faces the brunt of disapproval.
Just 6 short months into his tenure, his promised plan to ‘repeal and replace’ former president Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act has died a number of deaths, and at the hands of his own party. His much-trumpeted wall is now, rather, a sturdy yet still to be funded fence, and his pledge to label the Chinese as ‘currency manipulators’ seems to have been forgotten as quickly as one might say ‘a plate of amazing chocolate cake.’ And now, added to the list of perceived shortcomings is his unspoken emotional affiliation to alt-right racial ideology. Yes, his affiliation remains, to date, silent but, as they say, actions speak far louder than words. One only has to note the appointment of Steven Bannon as presidential advisor to see that the alt-right have eyes for more than the 1600 liqueur cabinet.
Millions of Americans will look on this added accusation of the President harboring bigotry as yet just another noisome issue plaguing the nation. Yet Trump, like a man hopping and skipping onto ever-thinner ice, appears to relish these polemics. Trump uses these widely broadcast hullaballoos as deflective stepping-stones. Like a “Find The Lady Card” street hustler you can almost imagine him directing the national attention, “Look over there, North Korea! No, over here, job numbers; no, back here, just look at the Dow!”
Trump, his administration already under 3 investigations for alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 election campaign, really doesn’t need white supremacist and white nationalist supporters. So, too, should he find totally unnecessary overtly racist events like last Friday’s hate and vitriol-fuelled torch-lit march; or so one would hope that one of his more levelheaded advisors might tell him. In an America of 2017 – hell, anywhere! – there is simply no place for phrases such as “Blood and soil,” “You will not replace us,” and “One people, one nation, end immigration.”
Tragically, this weekend, which in microcosm revealed just how divided the USA has quickly become, ended with the death, by car-ramming, of an American citizen, slain by a Nazi, 72 years after the last US soldier died in administering the bloody, last rites to Nazism and all it’s accompanying evils.
Well, so one thought. Heyer’s sad death and the tragic developments in Charlottesville exhibit that the Nazis’ extreme views regarding race and identity have somehow eluded the grave to live on. And Trump’s obtuse comments reveal the perils of having as president a man who willfully chooses to ignore history. Or to undergo an intense crash course.
So it’s perfectly understandable that Trump, the one man who readily has it within his stature and power to begin the healing, only made it worse, much worse, by what he didn’t say. For Trump, that must surely be a first.
Author: Steven Gray is a former art director, a news watcher and writer of political and social observations from South Africa.