OPINION | The original sins of Charlottesville
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This past weekend, a small group representing the losers of American society put aside their Axis and Allies board games, exited their moms’ basements and proceeded to march down the streets of Charlottesville, Va., with tiki torches, chanting Nazi slogans.

Given that there are so few of their ilk in the United States, organizers had to advertise their gathering across the country for months to even achieve a few hundred attendees. Tragedy struck the next day, when one of the young men identifying with the white supremacists plowed his car into the crowd of counter-protesters, killing a young woman and injuring nearly two dozen.

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The repudiation of the white supremacists and KKK by both the right and the left was swift and justified. In a fast-moving set of events where facts on the ground were not always clear, President Trump, as his predecessor did many times, made a statement with the least amount of risk for public or media blowback.

 

He later identified the groups by name and condemned them in his Monday statement. All of this, of course, was unsatisfactory for the media and the chorus of critics ready to tie Trump and his populist supporters to the actions of a few hundred.

After nearly two decades in D.C., I should hardly be surprised at people's attempts, from both the right and the left, to score political points during human tragedies. It’s also hardly surprising to see the complete lack of restraint or historical perspective and objectivity on display as well.

First, hate is hate, violence is violence and both are to be condemned no matter who displays that behavior. White supremacists should be rejected for wanting to increase their self-esteem by denigrating and hating others, or for marinating in the intellectually bankrupt filth of racist ideology. But should we not also condemn Black Lives Matter when they chant, “Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon” or when people identifying with them shoot and kill police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge?

To do so is not to condemn an entire segment of the population, but only those persons that advocate violence. Should we not also repudiate the violence of the Antifa when they destroy private property and seek to advance their ideology with physical violence and threats of intimidation? Congressman Steve Scalise (R-La.) and the Capitol Police officers were not shot by peaceful demonstrators; a hardened and self-identified hate-filled leftist did that. The fact is that all political violence and all domestic terrorism should be condemned and rejected.

Second, the hand-wringing over the few hundred white supremacists in Charlottesville, as though this represented some disturbing new surge in racism, is not surprising and highlights once again why we should actually be teaching history in our schools. It wouldn’t be a Republican administration — regardless of acts of commission or omission — without the media imposing its own perception to the reality. It’s what the media does. Never mind that it was Lyndon Johnson who sought to smear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and discredit the Civil Rights movement, or that the Bill ClintonBill ClintonGOP rep: North Korea wants Iran-type nuclear deal Lawmakers, pick up the ball on health care and reform Medicaid The art of the small deal MORE campaign played racial politics with the best of them.

In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan membership numbered anywhere from 4 million to 6 million when we had just over 100 million in total population. Now, the Southern Poverty Law Center puts KKK membership at 6,000 in a nation of over 300 million. While racism, in the words of Archbishop Charles Chaput, “is a poison of the soul” and is “the ugly, original sin of our country,” we have not allowed ourselves to continue to accept as culturally normal such beliefs.

But these points aside, we’re losing sight of who we are and what we can become as a people and a country. We’ve allowed ourselves to become lost in a grievance cycle trying to score political points while avoiding honest conversations.

We acquiesce as the media elevate the “arguments” of a tiny percentage of the population as though they represent the national conversation of working men and women and families. Some of us are too interested in pointing fingers for the sake of political theater while we should be looking in the mirror and doing a little soul searching.

We’ve been in denial about who we really are: we as Americans are all imperfect human beings in an imperfect world, capable of great good but incapable of sustained good. And though our built-in imperfections have led to failures, we have sought to correct them and have provided the greatest number of people of all backgrounds and ethnicities the greatest amount of freedom and prosperity than any other nation in the history of the world. We have, despite our imperfections, been an exceptional nation because of what we believe about the human person and the way we can live in society in freedom.

So the question moving forward is, will we allow ourselves to be balkanized by small handfuls of hateful souls on both sides of the aisle? Or will we properly place these malignant few in the dark corners in which they belong not giving them the attention or platform which they crave?

Are we going to listen to the voices that want to encourage the racial divides for political or monetary reasons or TV ratings? Or are we going to understand that we as Americans, regardless of race, culture and creed, can find common ground on many things, and where we choose to disagree, know that we can settle those differences as civil and enlightened human beings at the ballot box?

Ned Ryun is a former presidential writer for George W. Bush and the founder and CEO of American Majority. You can find him on Twitter @nedryun.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.