Sunday Commentary: Charlottesville Becomes Ground Zero for the New Civil War

Charlottesville

While one thinks of Charlottesville, Virginia, as being in another world from Davis, the two cities are really not all that different.  Hosting a world-class university in the University of Virginia, Charlottesville voted about 80 percent for Hillary Clinton last fall, not that different from Davis.

While Davis does not have the statue of Robert E. Lee that has galvanized dissension between the citizens of this sleepy college town and hordes of outsiders who arrived on Friday to protest – it was not that long ago when Davis was ground zero for the dispute over a Gandhi statue, nor was it was such a distant place when Nazis and anti-Nazis last summer violently clashed in front of the state Capitol.

There are so many dimensions to what happened in Charlottesville on Saturday that it will be difficult to do them all justice here.

At its core this is a battle about what the Confederacy means today.  The city has made plans to remove the statue.  The white nationalists arrived to protest the removal of the statue while the counter-demonstrators were there to oppose them.

I found things getting more interesting in my discussions with mainstream conservatives on Facebook arguing against the removal of the statue.  For them it seems that this is nothing more than an attempt to sweep Confederate history under the rug or to scrub history – as though removing statues honoring Confederate war heroes somehow meant we were wiping them out of history.

What these defenders of the statue and, before it, the flying of the Confederate flag seem to be forgetting is that (A) the Confederacy was an act of treason against the United States that required a very long and bloody Civil War in order to restore the union; (B) while we can dress this up as a “states’ rights” battle, the reality is that it was a fight about the states’ rights to white supremacy; and (C) the Confederate flag has become the symbol of not only defending slavery but also the Old South’s system of racial oppression and white supremacy.

Dress this up any way you want, but mainstream conservatives – at least some of them – are fighting a political battle on the side of white supremacists.

As the New York Times put it this morning in a pointed op-ed: “Their resentment of the removal of public symbols of the Confederate past — the genesis of this weekend’s rally — is fueled by revisionist history. They fancy themselves the victims of the so-called politically correct assault on American democracy…”

The Times adds, “Each feeds on the same demented lies about race and justice that corrupt true democracy and erode real liberty. Together they constitute the repulsive resurgence of a virulent bigotocracy.”

By honoring the Confederacy, we are honoring a legacy of white supremacy and suppression.  We seem to forget that blacks were stolen from their homeland, forced to toil on American soil for wealthy white masters, and it took a Civil War to legally free the blacks – and another virtual civil war to end Jim Crow that arose to take the place of the original slavery.

As the Times puts, “The bigotocracy is angry that slavery is seen as this nation’s original sin.”

This arrangement becomes all the more messy when you add in the auspices of the election of Donald Trump.  Critics during the election charged that Donald Trump, if not himself a white supremacist, at the very least did an insufficient job of keeping the true supremacists away from his campaign and ultimately the administration.

On Saturday there was David Duke in attendance, declaring that the alt-right unity fiasco “fulfills the promises of Donald Trump.”  Then there are the charges that advisers like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller are in fact white nationalists.

As if these connections are not enough, the president was criticized yesterday for soft-pedaling his response.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides,” he said adding, “This has been going on for a long, long time.”

“Mr. President — we must call evil by its name,” tweeted Senator Cory Gardner, Republican from Colorado, who oversees the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate Republicans.

“These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” he added.

This allowed Democrats to suggest that the president has been unwilling to alienate the alt right – and the portion of his base that embraces bigotry and ultimately sees this as a worthy battle – even if the white nationalists may be seen as an inconvenient ally.

His comment made no mention that the violence in Charlottesville was in fact initiated by people who are seen as white supremacists, as they brandish not only Confederate flags but also anti-Semitic placards – and, yes, a few Trump campaign signs.

Ultimately what I find most fascinating here is the interplay among the three themes.  Not that long ago a march like this would have easily been dismissed as a few extremists clinging to a lost cause.  Various KKK and neo-Nazi planned rallies have not materialized because of threats from counter-protests.

No more.  The true link between the Trump election and Charlottesville is that not only are the alt-right and the fringe white nationalists groups emboldened, but the mainstream right can no longer cleanly break from them as they once could.

The president refused to denounce the violence and actions of the white supremacists by calling it terrorism (yes, driving vehicles into crowds has been a tactic of ISIS), but instead added the qualifier “on many sides.”

Finally there is the mainstream conservative view that, in fact, agrees with the white supremacists – that the statue should remain up.

As the NY Times put it, “It is disheartening for black folk to see such a vile and despicable replay of history.”  But it is “more dispiriting still to realize that the government of our land, at least in the present administration, has shown little empathy toward victims of white bigotry, and indeed, has helped to spread the paralyzing virus of hatred, by turning a blind eye to what is done in their name.”

And I would add that, worse yet, it is even more dispiriting that the mainstream right embraces the symbols of the Confederacy as readily as they do.

These are troubling times and it is difficult to see how this nation emerges from this unscathed.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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49 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Charlottesville Becomes Ground Zero for the New Civil War”

  1. John Hobbs

    “the mainstream right”

    If any such thing exists. This is uptight white folks fearing that their just desserts are forthcoming and trying to get in the last few licks. Trumpism at its best.  Absolutely nothing to do with philosophy or political beliefs, [edited: Trump] has none, America has simply become another one of Trump’s game/reality shows.

      1. John Hobbs

        Who personifies this “mainstream right?” Mitch [edited] McConnell? Paul [edited] Ryan? The few extant conservative thinkers abandoned the hate and wait train a decade ago. Trump’s real supporters are the same ignorant whites and opportunists who backed George Wallace and of course the Russian oligarchs to whom he owes his presidency.

  2. Ron

    From article:  “His comment made no mention that the violence in Charlottesville was in fact initiated by people who are seen as white supremacists, as they brandish not only Confederate flags but also anti-Semitic placards – and, yes, a few Trump campaign signs.”

    Is that true?  Was the violence “initiated” by white supremacists? (Much as I don’t support Donald Trump, is that perhaps part of his point?) I remember the same type of thing occurring last year, at the state capitol. (Similar to some of the protests in the Bay Area.)

    I can’t even imagine attending one of these “events”. Seems to me that a more peaceful response/gathering might be more effective (and certainly less violent).

    1. David Greenwald

      “after the rally at a city park was dispersed, a car bearing Ohio license plates plowed into a crowd near the city’s downtown mall, killing a 32-year-old woman. Some 34 others were injured, at least 19 in the car crash”

      That man is charged with second degree murder

  3. Jerry Waszczuk

    The City Council of  Charlottesville, Virginia  is responsible  for this provocation  and senseless akt of violence ?  The  left wingers from the city council knew exactly  what is going to happen  by pushing decision to remove a statute honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee which is  part of U.S. history and part of regional heritage.

    The Communist Party of United States was outlawed by Communist Control Act of 1954 and  communists and other left wing  anarchists  found a  safe haven in the Democratic Party .

    In 1954 the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its Director, the famed J. Edgar Hoover, opposed the bill on the count that it would have forced the Communist movement underground. Hoover was right . 

     

     

     

    1. Eric Gelber

      Seriously Jerry? Keep a public monument to the war over the abolishment of slavery because removal might upset Nazis and white supremacists? Let’s put the blame on the hate groups where it belongs–and contrary to what the President said, it falls on one side.

      1. Howard P

        So, it appears, Eric, that you appear to see the statue as a monument to something (“the war”) rather than a man… well, let’s go all in… raze Arlington cemetery and the Lee mansion to obliterate any memory of the man, and the circumstances he got entangled with…

        Ironically, can’t prove it was inspired by, but resembles a Matthew Brady picture of Lee just after the surrender at Appomattox…

        May just need to rename our City, lest anyone think it commemorates Jefferson Davis…

        1. Eric Gelber

          Come on now. It’s a monument to a man who led an army against the U.S. government (i.e., a traitor) to preserve the institution of slavery. Like the confederate flag, it represents a part of history that must not be forgotten, but should not be celebrated.

          Your Davis analogy makes zero sense.

        2. Howard P

          I thought you had context, which I supplied, but that got caught in the filter, as it was inadvertently posted under an old/unauthorized screen name.

          Yeah I went over the top on the Davis thing… if you knew the history of Lee, and the statue, well, Lee was well ‘defined’ as a man before the Civil War/War Between the States… I may repost what you didn’t see… including two internet sites which I believes adds perspective to the issue at hand… am awaiting word on whether I need to do a total re-do.

          But now, going to get lunch…

          While it’s cooking, Abraham Lincoln’s election, and ‘fear’ that he might abolish slavery was a ‘trigger point’… but any competent student of American history knows that Lincoln was only committed to end the spread of slavery… he was not an abolitionist…

      2. Jerry Waszczuk

        Eric

        Answer my question .

        Why the  Communist Party of United States was outlawed by Communist Control Act of 1954 and but Nazis and KKK are  still legal in USA  ?  Is the  statue of General Robert E. Lee is more dangerous than Nazis and KKK organizations . Where is the priority and common sense .  Blaming statue for the problems is as same as Hitler’s Nazi Regime blamed Jews for the problem .

        Don’t  forget about the   “Klanbake” 1924 Democratic Party National Convention

        http://armored-column.com/the-democratic-klanbake-1924/

         

         

         

        1. John Hobbs

          “Why the  Communist Party of United States was outlawed by Communist Control Act of 1954″

          It was not, of course as a careful reading of the act clarifies. The Communist Party of the United States continues to exist and regularly runs candidates for local, state, and national elections.

          ” but Nazis and KKK are  still legal in USA  ?”

          Yes, Jerry. All political parties and philosophies, even the Know Nothings are legal in the USA.  Read the Constitution of the United States of America for further clarification. I thought you had to take a test on this stuff to be naturalized.

        2. Howard P

          Too bad native born citizens don’t have to take exams on the constitution equal to that required of ‘naturalized citizens’ before they are allowed to vote…

        3. Eric Gelber

          Too bad native born citizens don’t have to take exams on the constitution . . . before they are allowed to vote…

          Longing for the good old days, before the enactment of the Voting Rights Act, are you?

        4. John Hobbs

          “Too bad native born citizens don’t have to take exams on the constitution…”

          I took several rigorous civics exams from grammar school through graduation from high school.  Repeated unfamiliarity with American institutions and history cause me to doubt ones scholarship and sincerity.

        5. Howard P

          Eric… for twisting words, you will get no further response from me.

          If you knew me, knew my and my family’s history, you’d have to face that you just made a VERY asinine statement.

          [moderator] And how would he know you and your family’s history, since you post under a pseudonym? Could you please stop with the hostile reactions, Howard?

        6. Howard P

          Mr Hobbs… good for your background… you are probably in the 5% group.  Time and time again, studies have shown that the majority of native born Americans have little  clue about the Constitution… except in ‘sound bites’… across all economic, racial, ethnic lines…

          There are some that have posted here that are presumably well-educated, voters, who challenged me on saying that property rights are part of the Fifth Amendment… they think it’s all about self-incrimination…

          Mr Gelber:  I responded to Mr Hobbs gratuitous swipe at Jerry… you chose to malign me.  Mr Hobbs, if anyone, questioned the VRA…

          Moderator… if Mr Gelber’s 10:31 post stands, so should my 10:48, as I ‘reported’ both…

           

        7. John Hobbs

          ” I responded to Mr Hobbs gratuitous swipe at Jerry…”

          Gratuitous, perhaps, but I find it aggravating in the extreme when someone comes to the US from another country, brings all of the superstition and political baggage along and remains unacculturated, all the time bemoaning our freedoms and calling anyone who disagrees a “communist” or “leftist” a privilege that David reserves for special members.

        8. Howard P

          Then John, suggest you and Eric have a discussion about the VRA.

          Oh, my actual quote was, “… take exams on the constitution EQUAL to that required of ‘naturalized citizens’ before they are allowed to vote…before they are allowed to vote…

          I’ve taken those tests, for grins when I was in HS… aced them…
          ..

        9. John Hobbs

          “News to me”

          Doubtful, but if so, check with your immoderate moderator re: non-political, non-threatening descriptive terms removed from a post in this very thread. Your seemingly limitless indulgence of those most likely to take a bite out of your behind is morally laudable, I suppose.

           

        10. Alan Miller

          Blaming statue for the problems is as same as Hitler’s Nazi Regime blamed Jews for the problem .

          I wouldn’t want a statue of Hitler in Central Park.

    2. Tia Will

      Hi Jerry,

      The City Council of  Charlottesville, Virginia  is responsible  for this provocation  and senseless akt of violence ? “

      What ever happened to that long standing conservative value of individual responsibility ? I am quite sure that none of the members of the City Council were responsible for a self proclaimed white supremacist driving a car into a crowd of peacefully dispersing counter protestors.  The fascists had many peaceful ways of protesting. Instead they came in helmets with weapons shouting “Heil Trump” and “White Sharia now” . This is on each individual for their own abhorrent actions, not on the City Council.

      1. Howard P

        Some of the counter protesters were wearing helmets as well… there were people on both sides “cruisin’ for a bruisin'”… many were there with no such intention… they apparently ‘didn’t get the memo’…  like you say, there were individuals, on both sides, that were ‘responsible’, but acted ‘irresponsibly’…

  4. David Greenwald

    “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, K.K.K. neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together,” the White House statement on Sunday said.

    They still can’t just come out and say.  Hilarious.

  5. Tia Will

    “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, K.K.K. neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

    This statement on the surface sounds fair, inclusive and reasonable. Coming from a president that did not have self avowed white supremacists as senior advisers, it might actually be so. But in this case, where 45 was insistent that all politicians should call out “radical Islamic terrorism” by his specifically determined words, it rings very hollow. If specific naming was important then, surely it must be equally so when we have experienced a lethal terrorist attack here on American soil.

  6. Howard P

    [Originally posted ~ 10:00 this AM… got caught in the filter… complete text follows:]

    Interestingly, this situation as prompted by ‘political correctness’ to remove a statue of Robert E Lee from the campus.

    Robert E Lee was the son of Richard “light-horse Harry” Lee, a hero of the American Revolution… he was married to the great-granddaughter of Martha Custis, who, when widowed, married George Washington.

    He was viewed as a hero of the Mexican-American War.

    His family property was seized after the Civil War, without compensation.  We now know of it as Arlington Cemetery.

    He was against secession, but once it occurred, he declined an invitation to command as a general for the Union, as his loyalty was to protecting his home state of Virginia.

    He was he ‘winning-est’ single general in the Civil War.

    That statue shows him not brandishing a sword, not carrying a battle banner, head uncovered.  The statue honors a man, not a “cause”…

    see…  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-rally-protest-statue.html

    Look at the pedestal… note only his name, years of birth and death, and note there are still vestiges of vandalism… see photo caption as to nature of those.

    Those who vandalised it were ‘acting out’.. those who used the decision to remove it ‘acted out’, with the intent of provoking.  Both “sides” took a simple statue of a man, turned it into a “symbol”, and used that “symbol” into something to fight about.  The event was “staged”.  Meant to be confrontational and violent

    All those who ‘threw a first punch’, or even those who came there “looking for a fight”, should be harshly dealt with.  As to the guy from Ohio that killed a woman and injured others… well, at least Virginia is still a ‘death penalty state’.

    The statue should remain.. memorial for a man… not for a ’cause’, not for an ‘ideology’.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_E._Lee#Mexican.E2.80.93American_War

    [thanks,David for assisting me in recovering it, intact, as it was written. Also ‘caught’ was… a reply to Jerry’s 10:19 post]

    My take on it is slightly different Jerry… the statue honors a man, most recognized in his Confederate General attire.  The pedestal does not focus on that role, however.  The hat off is a symbol of humility, in much art.

    I believe the folk who decided to remove it did so either from fear of additional vandalism, or caving into the ‘ideology’ of ‘political correctness’.

    Robert E Lee, as a man, is a better ‘model’ than US Grant.  Lincoln respected Lee, and ‘feared’ his abilities as a commander.  As I recall, it was Lincoln who offered the commission, and in declining it, Lee respectfully responded.  Neither man ‘wanted’ a war.  Lee ended it…  and Grant respected Lee.

    1. Howard P

      Oh, not just a statue of a man… also of his beloved horse, Traveller…

      And to the earlier comment about Lee being a ‘traitor’… to whom?  The ‘Union’? His home and home state?  Read a history of Lee… a fairly good one is found in ‘Gods and Generals’ [a blend of story-telling and history…there are many others,purely historic,but they pretty much match the facts of G&G’s]… Lee and Stonewall Jackson were men caught in the ‘traps’ of their times, set by other forces… and making difficult choices… but, motivated by honor… not bigotry, hate, self-glory, nor profit…

  7. Tia Will

    I believe the folk who decided to remove it did so either from fear of additional vandalism, or caving into the ‘ideology’ of ‘political correctness’.”

    I believe that you have omitted an equally likely third possibility. It might be that the majority of the city council simply decided that preserving the statue in a different venue was the right thing to do after listening to the various constituencies presenting their cases.

      1. Howard P

        Looked at the agenda and minutes of the Charlottesville CC… all I can see is “removal”… maybe the ‘preserving the statue in a different venue’ you refer to, is the local landfill…  or smelter, as to the statue… it is clear from the testimony that some feel there is ‘no middle ground’…

        Particularly after last weekend… sure seems like smelter and the crushing of the pedestal for construction materials it is…

  8. Alan Miller

    While one thinks of Charlottesville, Virginia, as being in another world from Davis, the two cities are really not all that different.

    Does Charlottesville also have a  . . . . . . . . .     dark   . . . . . .  underbelly?

  9. Keith O

    It’s starting to surface that Antifa and BLM initiated much of the violence even though mainstream media would like you believing differently.  Reports of tear gas, mace, cement filled soda cans, clubs with spikes, urine and feces being used for attacks by the Alt-Left.

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