Trump says ‘both sides’ are to blame for Charlottesville violence
First, let me implore you to read carefully to the following because I am convinced that it could, but I can only hope, won’t be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Let me be clear: I am going to talk about recurring trends in history in our own country and other countries but I do NOT mean to imply they are comparable, just relatively similar. Let me begin in post World War One Germany. Again, please, pay close attention: there will be no attempt here to equate the United States’ current status with that of pre-Nazi Germany. My point is to show how and why trends sometimes recur.
After Germany’s defeat in World War One and the crushing requirements of the Versailles Treaty that followed, the Nazis managed to find a convenient scapegoat for all of Germany’s problems in its Jewish population. Eventually the Holocaust followed.
Here’s my point: there was and had always been an anti-Semitic stream throughout German culture for centuries. The Nazis did not create it but they did exploit it for political purposes. Again, I am NOT equating current America to that but wish only to make a point. The point is that some themes and trends resurface in society that have been dormant but not dead for decades if not centuries.
Now to present-day America. Surely, despite all our partisan differences, there can be no doubt in the face of unmistakable evidence that instances of rising racism have erupted in this country in recent years. The shooting of unarmed black teens is only scratching the surface. Surely no one can deny that when neo-Nazis marched against blacks and Jews in Charlottesville and the president of the United States declared they were good people just like those who opposed them, then that’s proof positive that racism is on the rise. My point here is this: the current deliberate effort to exploit and exacerbate our differences did not create this phenomena but merely exposed its existence and extent.
On the night Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a visitor to the White House found President Lyndon Johnson depressed. When asked why, since he had just achieved an historic victory, Johnson replied, “I’ve just delivered the South to the Republican Party for the next twenty years.” He was wrong. It’s now 54 years and still counting. Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” was nothing more than an appeal to those who refused to accept the new reality, mainly the people who had voted for George Wallace. What we are seeing now is nothing new but the revival of an old attitude that has lain dormant but not dead.
Racism, like many other human traits, is primal — it is part of human cultural DNA that is so instinctive it is often beyond recognition even to many of those afflicted with it. Further, it is easy to scare people with the exaggerated fear of people with different backgrounds, color and religion from them. Read, Muslims and Mexicans. Tolerance requires courage. Fear stokes cowardice. If we really want to make America great again, we can first start with destroying again these anti-American cancers that are anything but great.
Barry Peel, a retired TV reporter, is a commentator on Hometown Radio Network in Danville.