VIEWPOINT America must say no to hatred

by John C. Forney, President, Democratic Club of Claremont

We may again be at a critical teachable moment, a time when our national attention is finally focused on the original sin of this nation—racism. 

The events in Charlottesville this weekend have again ripped the scab off this festering sore that has plagued our nation since its inception.

From the first acts of genocide against native peoples within less than a generation from the landing of the Mayflower to yet other acts that quickly followed that first proverbial Thanksgiving feast, racism has been a major theme of our national story.

Andrew Jackson’s proclamation that “the only good Indian was a dead Indian,” has spawned the seeds of racial violence that have overshadowed much of the US government’s relationships with tribal peoples. From slavery and up through the Civil War to the KKK and Jim Crow in both North and South, racism has been a part of warp and woof of our social and political fabric.

From the anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s and 1850s to the so-called Zoot Suit Riots (attacks by white US servicemen on the Mexican American citizens of Los Angeles) the fatal flaw of racism has stained the pledge of inclusion of all. We need to understand—we must understand—Charlottesville did not happen in a vacuum.

Now that our nation is paying attention again, might we, to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King’s eloquent words, commit ourselves to bending the arc of this long, tragic history toward justice?

An excellent beginning would be to unequivocally condemn the recent acts of racially-motivated violence that took place this past weekend in Charlottesville. David Duke was all but explicit in calling upon President Trump’s promise to “make America great [or white] again” to justify the violence. To temporize, to draw false equivalencies, to remain silent—this is a gross disservice to the promise of our nation.

It is incumbent on all white politicians, but Republicans especially, to accept responsibility for the tone this president has set and condemn it. Mr. Trump has employed the language of misogyny, religious intolerance, xenophobia and unapologetic racism. He founded his campaign for the highest office in the land on a racist lie about President Obama’s birth certificate, a lie he knew to be absolutely untrue. To install, at the highest circle of power, a white nationalist the likes of Steve Bannon and then feign ignorance of the message it sends is disingenuous. It is a dog whistle to all the David Dukes and their neo-Nazi coterie.

To promote racial violence at one’s political rallies with a wink and a nod is nothing less than to besmirch any concept of decency in America. To promote police violence as Mr. Trump recently did at a speech to assembled law enforcement officers is to promote criminality in its rankest form—a criminality that gives lie to the notion of “equal justice under the law.” No more enabling!  No more excuses! We can’t laugh off these things as some sort of joke.

Mr. Trump, tepid will not cut it. Not now. It is time for you to “man up” and accept responsibility for the vitriol you have unleashed in this nation. To claim that all sides do it is a canard unworthy of the office you hold. To waffle for two days before a statement of condemnation of the Charlottesville violence is to fail your leadership role.

America is better than this. This nation is better than you and the self-serving sycophants you have gathered about you. Though they have yet to realize it, your followers deserve better than this.

If we are exceptional at all, and in this way I believe we are, it is because of a promise we have made to all generations who are part of this nation. It is a solemn compact that we will be defined not by any race, skin color, religion, language or creed.

It is the promise enshrined in our national motto: e pluribus unum—out of many, one. Contrary to Sarah Palin, the “real” Americans are citizens of all shades and divergent political beliefs. We are young and old, gay and straight, abled and differently abled. We are of Catholic, Muslim, Jain, Methodist, Jew, Mormon and Baptist, and countless other faiths. And of none.

Our nation’s promise has been sealed by the blood of those Union Soldiers, black and white, who fought to break the chains of slavery. Our promise was sealed in the blood of those who fought fascism in World War II. It was sealed on the streets of Montgomery, Alabama by marchers who faced down Sheriff Bull Connor and his dogs.

It is a promise inculcated in the hearts of our school children as they learn the true meaning of those words in the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms all across America. And again this past weekend, tragically, it was sealed in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia.

I still have one hope, the hope that in peace we and our children might be able to grow to our full stature as men and women, dwelling in a nation under the rule of law, dedicated to the principle that all are created equal and all are valued for who they are. It’s time, more than ever, for the decent citizens of American to redeem this promise.

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