Charlottesville. I do not even know where to begin. Even now, after reading all the articles, after pondering what has happened, after trying so hard to form some semblance of order in my thoughts, after forcing myself to sit behind the keyboard, I still don’t know what to say. I just watch the cursor blink and try to hold back the tears.
I read articles about torch wielding men shouting vile epithets. I watched a video of a man intentionally drive his car into a group of innocent people protesting white supremacy and Naziism. He succeeded in murdering one person and injuring 19 others. A young man dressed in a crisp white polo shirt, probably afforded every opportunity to live a full life, drove his shiny new car into a crowd of people, hellbent on believing his life is ‘less than’ because non-whites demand equality in our society.
When a reporter interviewed his mother she claimed to have no knowledge of his white supremacist leanings. She tries to stay out of it, she says. As far as she knew he was going to support President Trump and as far as she knew Trump wasn’t a white supremacist. Plus, her son had a black friend. You can’t be racist if you have black friends, right? Passively, painfully ignorant of the ideology her son ascribed to, or at least feigning ignorance. I can’t decide which is worse.
I wanted to write about Charlottesville immediately after learning what happened there, but it was all jumbled up inside me. I was angry and sad, but most of all, afraid of what more could happen. I couldn’t form a cohesive thought other than, this is bad, so bad.
I went to bed, tossed and turned. I woke up, still wanting to get out what I was feeling, needing what I would say to make sense. I couldn’t accomplish that. I ate breakfast, sat on my porch enjoying a hot cup of coffee. My heart was heavy, but still no words.
Lunch. More coffee. Hot soothing shower. Nothing.
Mid afternoon, my husband and I decided to take a drive with our son to look at some houses for rent. We drove through bucolic neighborhoods surrounded by gates, manicured lawns, kids swimming at the community pool. No one seemed particularly bothered. Everyone just carrying on with life. I wondered if their souls felt dark today.
I can sit here and say, Charlottesville happened because of Trump. It did. David Duke confirmed that. White supremacists voted for him because they knew he would give them a safe space to carry on with their mission. His policies and divisive rhetoric empower their hatred. The more bombastic his tone, the more they love and support him and make it possible for him to stay in power, the more inclined he is to be incendiary, the more emboldened they feel. It’s a symbiotic relationship from the bowels of hell.
But, the other reason Charlottesville happened is because too many of us were too quiet for too long because, for a lot of us, it’s easy to be quiet. I don’t wear a hijab. I can walk away when a conversation uncomfortably borders on racism. No one looks at me with wary eyes when I enter an airport. My pale, freckled skin and blue eyes don’t alert the attention of white supremacists. My son can wear a hoodie without fear. His blonde curls prove his innocence. I will never have to tell him to keep his hands out of his pockets.
No matter how much of an ally I consider myself, I do not live in the shoes of the people our president marginalizes. No matter that my heart is broken over their pain, I don’t live in their skin. I don’t endure what they do, day in and day out. They don’t get to take a long shower to collect their thoughts on Charlottesville. They don’t get to go on a long drive to get their minds off of it all. For them, Charlottesville happens every day in some form or fashion.
I was unusually quiet during this presidential election. There seemed to be an insurmountable wall of conspiracy theories and outright lies that I didn’t want to tackle. I didn’t think my words could change those minds. I felt it was enough for me to just not vote for Trump. It was enough for me to be silently disgusted by his abhorrent behavior. I felt that way because I have the luxury to do so. Charlottesville doesn’t happen to me every day in some form or fashion.
There is no more time to be quiet. We can’t pretend we don’t know. We can’t decide to stay out of it. If you are an ally it is no longer enough to merely believe this administration is wrong, it must be shouted for all to hear. Let them hear it through your lawful resistance. You cannot walk away from uncomfortable conversations. You are no longer allowed to hope for the best because it doesn’t directly impact your life.
In the words of Joe Biden, there is only one side.
Trump is on the wrong side.
If you oppose Trump and remain silent, you are on the wrong side too.
*Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.