Hatred and Violence, Charlottesville

Hatred and Violence

Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

Mid-August 2017

By Siegrid Raible

I have been troubled by an unending series of disturbing events this August.  First there was the US twitter-in-chief’s twitter storm in early August. In response to a nuclear armed North Korea’s missile launches, he tweeted the US was “locked and loaded” and ready to rain “fire and fury” the likes of which the world has not yet seen on North Korea. Then there were the events that transpired over August 11-12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. We barely had time to catch our breath when terrorists struck in the heart of Barcelona, Spain, killing fifteen and wounding more than one hundred innocent people from thirty-four different countries. As a peace proponent I am struggling with where we are in 2017 and how to respond to naked threats and acts of violence. I am particularly disturbed with the rabid hate-filled chants and acts of a small band of Americans aimed at other Americans.

On a weekend in mid-August hatred, violence and death descended upon the historic southern college town of Charlottesville, Virginia. I do not understand the rage displayed by the demonstrators at the weekends “Unite the Right” events. Ostensibly they had gathered to oppose the removal of a statue from a public park but fights broke out and the actions of one young man, a participant in Saturday’s event, led to the death of a counter-demonstrator.

Friday night brought angry torch bearing marchers, mostly young and male, trooping through the campus of the Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia chanting “blood and soil” and “You/Jew will not replace us,” a frightening scene reminiscent of scenes out of 1930s Nazi Germany. For African-Americans the torch lit night rally brought to mind terrorist acts of the 1950/60s Ku Klux Klan. I believe the anger displayed by the marchers and voiced in their hate speech was meant to instill fear and terrorize the citizens of Charlottesville and to attract worldwide attention to their hate-filled beliefs.

The next day, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, a young twenty year-old who travelled from Ohio to Charlottesville, chose to plow his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of counter-protesters wounding nineteen and killing Heather Heyer, a native of Charlottesville. The attacker used the same tactics as the terrorists in Nice, London and, most recently, Barcelona, Spain.  

How do we respond to these words and acts? I am struggling with what the response should be. I believe in the golden rule:  do unto others as you would have done onto yourself … ten simple words. Logic dictates that I will not harm you because I do not wish you to harm me and vice versa. But what do you do when that rule is broken?

I believe in what Dr. Martin Luther King described as the arc of a moral universe.  He preached that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” He fought peacefully against racial intolerance and inequality. And because I too believe in a moral universe, I chose to condemn words and acts of violence preached by any individual against any other individual or group.

And because I believe in the dignity of each person I will stand up against inequality and injustice and I will peacefully resist those who would threaten and attack any individual or group.

And I oppose all violence because I believe that safety and peace exists for all when it resides in each person.  

 

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