By Joe Whited
I like many of you have spent much of the last few days trying to come to terms with not only the violence we witnessed in Charlottesville over the weekend but also the forces of evil and hatred that unleashed that violence. We can be forgiven for thinking the time of the neo-Nazi, the KKK, and the so-called alt-right had passed.
However, over the weekend, our television screens provided us with a vivid reminder that this was not so. This bigotry and racial intolerance is not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem, it is an American problem and one that is unfortunately as old as the Republic itself. We must always be on guard for it, we must always be resolved to fight it, and we must never surrender to it for personal or political gain. These hate groups and the terrorism they engage in has no place in this world, no place in this country, and certainly no place in Virginia.
I spent much of my military career engaged in fighting the fire of extremism and intolerance with fire and I can assure you there is not one iota of difference between an American born white supremacist who engages in terrorism and the radical Muslim who does the same.
That being said, while we all abhor the actions of these terrorists, we cannot take the law into our own hands. We have a right and a responsibility to take to the streets, to the airwaves, to social media and to the op-ed pages but if we commit an overt act of violence we are deserting the moral high ground.
Observing last weekend’s violence, I was reminded of a line from a speech President Kennedy gave at the United Nations: “Terror is not a new weapon. Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example. But inevitably they fail.”
He went on to say that terrorist fail because people like myself and the many others who choose to wear the uniforms of our military services and law enforcement agencies stand between those terrorist, and the many civilians they would threaten. Sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice on what Lincoln called the alter of freedom, as two Virginia State Troopers did this weekend.
Those men and women wearing uniforms must be backed up by national, state, and local leaders who make it clear to their respective constituents that the activities of these few radicals will not be tolerated and will be met with the full forces of the law when necessary.
To that end let me offer an observation and a suggestion about the president’s actions over the weekend. I like many American appreciated the president’s early statement condemning the violence, but that appreciation was tempered by reservations over his failure to name and shame the groups who had precipitated that violence, until he faced a public outcry to do so. No president, Republican or Democrat, in recent memory has had any reservation about doing so in similar situations.
The president is the person the country turns to in times of crises and their words can change history, they can start and stop wars, tear down walls, and rid the world of diseases. Just as the words of presidents can inspire our nation to greatness their silences can have equally negative consequences.
Silence from the White House can be viewed as tacit approval of the most heinous behavior. I encourage the president to bear these thoughts in mind, in the many months ahead, as he is called upon to deal with crises both foreign and domestic and hope in those future crises he will inspire us to embrace the better angels of our nature without reservation.
Joe Whited was a 2016 Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives to represent the 5th Congressional District of Virginia, which includes Rappahannock County. He lives in the town of Washington.