20 year old Peter Cvjetanovic wants us all to know that he is not an angry racist. I could be wrong but he looks angry in this photo which was taken in Charlottesville, Virginia during the white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally which took place on August 12, 2017. As the rally escalated a young woman, Heather D. Heyer, was killed when a car rammed into a crowd of anti-supremacist protestors. In addition nineteen others were injured. Mr. Cvjetanovic stated that he was there to “honor and respect” what Robert E. Lee stood for. What Robert E Lee stood for was the right of white men to own black men and women; the right for white men to snatch black babies from their mothers; the right to work these slaves to death, the right to rape, beat and kill their black slaves. In order to protect these rights, he led an army to break away from the Union and to fight the United States army, leading to somewhere between 617,877 to 851,066 dead. I confess I cannot ever tell for sure what emotion any person has in their heart, so I will give Mr. Cvjetanovic the benefit of the doubt that he is not an angry racist. Perhaps he is a calm relaxed racist.
I read Mr. Cvjetanocic’s comments in detail and could not find any comments that would indicate a condemnation of or even a distancing of himself from the car smashing. And perhaps the person responsible for the car smashing wasn’t angry either. James Alex Fields, the suspected driver of that vehicle, is being held without bail on suspicion of second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failure to stop in an accident that resulted in death. According to reports, he had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia. I have worked with hundreds of people with serous mental illness in my career as a social worker and therapist. I do not consider mental illness an excuse for criminal behavior. However, many with serious mental illness are vulnerable. Could Mr. Fields have been swept up by the rhetoric of the white nationalist movement? Could he had felt accepted and a part of something? Could he have been encouraged to act in a violent way by others in the group? I do not know. I do not however leave President Trump blameless. I do believe he is complicit due to his racist statements during the campaign. Whenever a Muslim commits an act of terror, Muslims are expected to condemn these acts as Muslims. Why hasn’t the media interviewed Christian pastors who supported Trump and asked them if they unequivocally condemn these acts of terrorism perpetrated by the white supremacists who claim to be Christian.
Finally today President Trump made a new speech, but it took him two days to finally condemn the white supremacist movements, thus giving the Nazis, the KKK and others time to revel in their newly found sense of entitlement. Prior to that, he condemned violence on “many sides,” attempting to equate the anti-racist protestors, almost all of whom were non-violent and many representatives of the faith community, with the vile hatred of the neo-Nazis and others of their ilk. He criticized President Obama for not using the term “radical Islamic terrorism,” but even in his speech today he refrained from calling these matters acts of terrorism. Why not use a term “white supremacist terrorism”? Or even “radical Christian terrorism”? The actions of the neo-Nazis and the KKK are as much Christian as the ISIS is Muslim. Each are clearly radical extremist arms of each religion respectfully.
I watched President Trump’s speech today and he had sense enough to only read from the tele-monitor, and no, he didn’t wink when he condemned the racists. So perhaps he is sincere. However I am still waiting for him to remove Steve Bannon from his most trusted advisors.