“Boiling Over” screams the headline of the print edition of Charlottesville’s newspaper of record recounting the City Council’s first meeting since August 12th’s Smite the Right! rally. But lest anyone be misled by wishful thinking– the Council’s tormenters on Monday night were a leftist mob, and not sober Charlottesville taxpayers and business people righteously indignant over manifest government failure. Those sentiments are there—given voice mostly by some excellent local radio programming—but common sense is otherwise hard to come by now in what passes for political activity in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“It was a total takeover.… Three were arrested. They called for Mayor Mike Signer’s removal…[A] man said he’s suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder… Within 30 minutes of starting its meeting, the entire City Council, the city attorney, the city manager and council clerk all retreated into a backroom. Two women stood on top of the dais with a banner: ‘Blood on your hands…’
“It then became an urban-populist coup…’Someone needs to be held accountable,’ said Don Gathers, the former chairman of the blue ribbon commission that recommended relocating the Lee statue. ‘Something is going to happen … by any means necessary,’ he added. ‘People are tired and they’re fed up … it’s going down, for real.’
“Social justice activist Emily Gorcenski [declared] ‘Charlottesville isn’t the capital of the resistance,’ … excoriating [Mayor Mike] Signer’s declaration of resistance against President Donald Trump earlier this year. Charlottesville now, she said, ‘is the capital of the [anti-fascists].’ ”
The cowed City Councilors threw every bone they could to the mob Monday night. They offered excuses: “‘We tried really hard. A federal judge forced us to have the rally downtown,’ [the mayor] said.” They offered symbolism: “City Council voted unanimously to cover the city’s statues of Confederate Gens. Robert E. Lee and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson in black fabric.” They hardened their previous positions: [a City Council member] held a news conference [earlier] Monday to announce her change of mind [she now supports removing the Lee statue], and she called for removal of the statue of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, too. Even the Mayor’s chief rival, though craftily maneuvering to supplant him, on this occasion prevaricated: “We’ve been told that if we take them down tonight, we’re going to be personally sued,” Councilor Wes Bellamy said Monday night. “We will personally be held liable and charged with a class-six felony.” It seems nothing is too good for Charlottesville’s oppressed, aggrieved and offended– except an egregiously ambitious politician facing fines and jail time, that is. But going momentarily wobbly does not seem to have diminished his standing as Charlottesville’s Hero and Moral Leader of the hour, all testimonials collected assiduously on his own Twitter page. These cheesy encomia are convincing proof that a Dear Leader worthy of the New Charlottesville has emerged, and it remains only for the formalities of his accession to be worked out.
Post-rally Charlottesville will be different. It must be, having now fixed anger and retribution at the center of its civic culture, while Facebook postings by local “artist/activists” qualify as political indicators worthy of front-page analysis. With Smite the Right! Charlottesville’s radicals now have their founding myth, one which will allow them to clothe injustice, intolerance, and coercion in the false trappings of fairness, inclusion and democracy. Truth too looks to be an endangered commodity. It is still impossible to get an authoritative count of how many White Supremacist/Neo Nazis actually showed up, but, residing in this area, I have heard the number 300 whispered more than once. The police chief seems to have disappeared entirely. While the details of the New Charlottesville’s politico-cultural gospel are still being worked out, its outlines are already clear:
“The alt-right rally was a coming-out party for resurgent white nationalism in America.”
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s about the statue. This is about white supremacy. And this is about the notion of different individuals of the majority race. And they believe that they are superior to anyone who is not of the, quote, unquote, “white pure race.” They want to try and invoke fear. And that’s been their MO ever since, in my opinion. So again, this is not just about a statue. I also would like to add to the point that when we talk about the city of Charlottesville, again, this is a city that I absolutely love, but let’s not act as if this city does not have a history.”
“On Saturday, August 12, Charlottesville witnessed the first terrorist attack under Donald Trump. This was a test of our national leadership—and both Donald Trump and Tom Garrett failed it. Trump failed to recognize the attack as an act of terrorism, and then failed to condemn it or the racism that inspired it. Why? Because he helped get us here, through his policies and his words.”
“Four actions are for you to organize locally, in your home communities.
- Do the research to identify Nazis in your community. Find out who’s doing alt-right or white supremacist agitating, find out where they work, and learn as much as you can about their connections to politicians or police in your town. Use this information to block them from gaining social and political control. Do not allow your community to be a platform for white supremacist fascism.
- Organize community defense networks to protect and defend each other now. The only reason why more people weren’t killed in Charlottesville on Saturday is that a wide variety of groups, particularly anarchist and Antifa groups, protected each other when the police refused to do so.
- Take down all confederate monuments.
- And finally, there is a direct connection between white supremacist fascism and everyday white supremacist state policies and practices. Continue to organize to end racial oppression and make reparations, in line with the Vision for Black Lives.
We grieve for Heather. We ache with the Black communities terrorized. We mobilize in memory of the 52% of Charlottesville residents enslaved by the confederacy. We fight for the reparations yet to be made in their name.
Bring your best gifts to this struggle, and fiercely love. ”
” ‘I think in a Southern city, Southern town, white supremacy is woven into the American DNA,’ said Rev. Seth Wispelwey of the [Charlottesville] Sojourners United Church of Christ. ‘There’s a lot of unreconciled history that has gone unchallenged. ‘ ”
He might have added, “but no more.” From now on this inspired divine and dozens like him will define that history and dictate the terms for “reconciling” and “challenging” it—souls ablaze with plenty of ‘fierce love,” no doubt. God help Charlottesville when they do.
Sons of Charlottesville once gave a rising American nation the creed and the code it needed to become “the last best hope of earth.” Now, by some cruel irony, the home of Jefferson and Madison offers a dystopian betrayal of that creed along with shameless violations of that code. In 1838 Abraham Lincoln was asked to speak on “the perpetuation of our political institutions” to a group of young leaders in Springfield. He took his cue from a recent act of terrible mob violence, and observed:
“But you are, perhaps, ready to ask, “What has this to do with the perpetuation of our political institutions?” I answer, it has much to do with it. Its direct consequences are, comparatively speaking, but a small evil; and much of its danger consists, in the proneness of our minds, to regard its direct, as its only consequences… [G]ood men, men who love tranquility, who desire to abide by the laws, and enjoy their benefits, who would gladly spill their blood in the defense of their country; seeing their property destroyed; their families insulted, and their lives endangered; their persons injured; and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better; become tired of, and disgusted with, a Government that offers them no protection; and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose. Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocratic spirit, which all must admit, is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed … At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”