I have been watching the coverage of the events in Charlottesville, and (surprise!) I find that much of the analysis I see I could predict based on the sources. Including an enormous onslaught of anti-our-duly-elected president coverage. Let’s try a more strategic perspective.
1. The primal source of the antagonisms released last weekend was Charlottesville’s leadership, which was trying to generate political points by attacking all displays honoring recollection of any Confederate participants, precipitately the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Lee was both anti-secession (he declined an offer to lead the Union forces only because he felt he was a citizen of Virginia first) and anti-slavery (most of “his” slaves were tied to the estate of his wife, and protected as property of that estate), and was also (arguably, but I would be happy to engage) one of the greatest military leaders in the history of this continent, at least. Many of these monuments were erected in the “lost cause” tradition, from about 1870 to 1920, where southerners sought to elevate our Civil War to patriotic “states’ rights” causes instead of more direct (and historically credible) emotions. I find some monuments less significant in the nation’s history, and maybe worthy of retirement. But I do not see that judicious review.
2. A number of groups, many of whom I dislike intensely, applied legally through their First Amendment privileges to demonstrate (march, rally, whatever) against this particular civic deconstruction, and their application was reviewed, approved (recommended by the ACLU), and prepared for by local officials. Although sympathetic to their ultimate objective, there is no way I would voluntarily associate with these groups (I consider some of them anti-American); I was not there. Other non-extremists made a different decision and were part of that crowd.
3. Other groups, which I also dislike, decided that they needed to counter-demonstrate. These groups did not apply for permission to legally demonstrate; they just showed up. There are credible stories that some of these people were sponsored (at least expensed, if not actually paid). I would challenge the historical knowledge, much less appreciation, of many of these counter-demonstrators: my conclusion is that they were emotionally involved, without informed objective consideration. (No room to develop that thought here).
4. In the weeks leading from approval to execution of the authorized demonstration, both sides watched the preparations of their “opponents” (fellow citizens, but who’s counting?) and escalated their preparations to state their case with violence rather than be silenced. In press releases from NYPD members, it was remarked that in NYC none of these weaponized demonstrators from either side — both showed up with helmets, bats and heavy poles, shields, chemical weapons (mace, tear gas, etc.) — would have been allowed near the scheduled event; there would have been many full paddy wagons departing the march route, and two forces of police keeping each group away from the other. Instead, the Charlottesville law enforcement got out of the way, purportedly on orders from above.
5: Not surprisingly, from here we did not see “freedom of speech” : we watch suppression of free speech by anarchical violence from both sides, as President Trump said. Very little of the subsequent action has any rationale, including the official reaction, which was to vacate the approved demonstration permit instead of interdicting those who interfered with it. This includes the pre-meditated (the plates were removed from the car; this was not heat-of-the-moment) vehicle assault on the demonstrations by a homicidal nut, who has known extremist sentiments but no formal ties to the event organizers.
1. This is an un-American display of violence that even Sam Adams would have objected to. The violence is not supportable in our society, cannot be tolerated, and videos should be actively pursued for criminal prosecution, since no in situ enforcement was present. It is worth the expense, as an investment against a repeat.
2. On many levels, these events are a failure of the local and state administrations to anticipate, provide for, and react to, a reasonable projection of what might be expected in this situation. Specifically, it should be recorded as a failure on the part of the Charlottesville Mayor Singer, and not justification for his attempts to higher office.
Our path forward should revert to our Constitutional legacy of rule of law, and open discussion of divisive issues, which is what the First Amendment was written for. Criminal, violent eruptions are not a First Amendment right for anyone.