My Facebook post after the tragic fiasco in Charlottesville garnered more than a little pushback. Most of it dealt with my contention that Trump’s comment about the hatred, bigotry and violence coming from “all sides” (his words) was “ill-timed” (my words) and further that his overall handling of the growing controversy surrounding racialism has fallen short of what our country needs from him.
I thought I would clarify and defend my position by responding to a comment from one of my oldest and best FB friends, Dave. After briefly chronicling his own journey through the feedback loop of southern racism as well as his conversion to Christ, Dave condemned the sinful and grotesque racism of white supremacists while also noting—rightfully—the reverse racism fomented by identity politics and the wicked use of violence by more than a few of its advocates. He then closed by saying:
“Defending him (Trump) is not my great joy but regarding your and many others reaction to his renunciation of racism and bigotry from “all sides”, I am completely baffled. I sincerely recognize the putrid evidence of these vile qualities in the extreme elements attempting to lay claims in both political parties. The insistence that Trump call out one above the other seems to give some sense of credence to the same evil in the other camp. Where am I misunderstanding?”
First, my comment was NOT that the problem wasn’t coming from both sides. There is no doubt that the identity politics that drove some of the protestors at the rally is a counter-productive worldview at its core. Furthermore, there are more than a few provocateurs in the movement who are using it to push any number of evil agendas: communism, anarchism, reverse racialism, extreme globalism, Islamism, etc.…in general, Alinsky-style tactics designed to foment hatred and violence with the goal of creating division and destabilizing America as well as derailing Trump’s administration. Lastly, that the regressive-left media cabal is more than happy to help mainline this narrative.
My objection was solely the timing of Trump’s comment (and as we all know, timing is—if not everything—a very significant thing.)
Here we had a gaggle of anti-Christian goose-steppers bearing Nazi regalia and spouting racialist and anti-Semitic screeds, intentionally evoking one of the two most perfectly satanic worldviews and world-destroying movements of the 20th century (with communism being the other).
And then we had one of their deranged acolytes driving a Dodge Charger into a crowd of what seemed to be peaceful protestors, killing one person and injuring 19.
Lock in on that.
Now, consider the counter-protestors. A significant percentage of them—likely even a large majority (only God knows)—were there to peacefully push back against the darkness. As I have said, I think it would have been better if everyone had just ignored the fascists rather than giving them the attention they so desperately crave. But if the Eric Holmberg of 1977 had been translated from William & Mary to the campus of UVA 40 years later (I feel old suddenly), I’m sure I would have been out there pushing back as well.
It is pretty clear at this point that there was also a contingency of Alinskyites there, fanning the fires of hate, violence and chaos. Fine, I get that. And I absolutely agree that this needs to be investigated and addressed, not just in Charlottesville but in similar uprisings that are sadly becoming too common in our country.
But against the backdrop and timing of neo-Nazis marching and the dead and wounded victims of their hate, drawing any kind of moral equivalence between what most Americans see as the “two-sides” of this tragic fiasco amid the heat of the moment just wasn’t wise.
And we desperately need our leaders to be men and women of wisdom.
But here we come to the larger problem: Trump’s general lack of wisdom and honesty on this as well as any number of other important issues.
Now contrary to the regressive left’s incessant propaganda, I don’t believe Trump is a racist. And he has condemned David Duke, the KKK, white supremacism, anti-Semitism and other evil aspects of the so-called “alt-right.” I believe he is sincere about this.
The problem is that he has lacked wisdom in the way he has often gone after them: poor timing; unfortunate or incomplete phrasing; being silent when he should have spoken up; speaking up when he should be silent; substituting the 140 characters in a tweet for a focused and nuanced speech are some of his many stumbles in this regard.
Now couple that with his position on immigration (which I, for the most part, support).
And finally, add four key ingredients:
1. His family business’s unfortunate—though not unusual given the time—treatment of minorities in times past.
2. His tacit approval—and at times even encouragement—of roughing-up protestors at his rallies.
3. Relatedly, his appealing at times to some of the baser instincts of his core supporters, people who feel disenfranchised from the American dream and are casting about for scapegoats, real or imagined.
4. His incessant love of and genius for courting controversy and thereby generating front-page news and millions of dollars in free advertising. This, in turn, has often kept him from immediately and clearly addressing and defusing controversies when they arise.
Racialists on both the right and left who hear “Make America White Again” every time Trump’s pet slogan is declared.
And a whole bunch of people in the middle who are left either confused, unsure, fearful, or suspicious of where Trump is really coming from.
For the most part, Trump has done a poor job in silencing this dog whistle. That in turn has helped foment doubt, fear, and division. And it has given his many opponents a big stick to club both his administration and agenda…while introducing and empowering their own.
One of the most important roles of a President is to be a truth-teller; to inspire trust in our government; through example as well as by using the bully-pulpit of his or her office to help bring clarity, healing, and unity to the challenges and controversies of our nation as they arise.
My prayer is that our president comes to really understand this. And that he graduates from being an apprentice…to a man who can truly help make our multi-ethnic nation great again.