Email #249: “take our country back”?

Jason Kessler, a white supremacist co-organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, said: “We are going to make Charlottesville the center of the universe.” His promise has already come true since I am reading about the bloodshed through BBC articles from my family’s rental apartment in Amsterdam. Even J. K. Rowling tweeted a rally photo of men parading Nazi and Confederate flags together yesterday. That was before a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of anti-protestors, killing one person and injuring 19 others.

I can’t count the number of times my family and I have strolled down that same block of the Charlottesville walking mall. I assume you have been there many times yourself too. The President responded to this act of domestic terrorism by emphasizing that the violence was displayed on “many sides” and did not begin during his administration: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It has been going on for a long time in our country — not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time.”

Rather than correcting the statement, a White House spokesperson reiterated the President’s refusal to condemn the white supremacists specifically: “The president was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter-protesters today.”

But just two weeks ago, the President was bragging how he was willing to use the term “radical Islamic terrorism.” He mentioned you in the same sentence: “We’re also working with Chairman Bob Goodlatte on a series of enforcement measures — and he’s a terrific guy — to keep our country safe from crime and terrorism — and in particular, radical Islamic terrorism. A term never uttered by the past administration. Never uttered. Did anybody ever hear that term? I don’t think so. But you heard it from me.”

So why isn’t the President using the terms “white supremacist” and “domestic terrorism” now? Why isn’t he calling the attack in Charlottesville “radical Christian terrorism”? His tweets sound more like Hillary Clinton campaign slogans: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” His “one” includes the KKK. Former imperial wizard David Duke said the Unite the Right rally was “going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” and “take our country back.” Many carried Trump campaign signs. Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer rightly said of the President: “I do hope that he looks himself in the mirror and thinks very deeply about who he consorted with during his campaign.”

It’s a question you should ask yourself too. According to the statement you released yesterday, you are “deeply saddened and revolted by the hate and violence taking place in Charlottesville,” feel that the “racist and anti-Semitic views embraced by white supremacists have no place in our nation,” and “strongly condemn such detestable views against fellow human beings.” I agree and thank you for being far more direct than the President. But you and other GOP leaders must acknowledge that these white supremacists are core Trump supporters and their detestable views are growing with him in the White House. If they have no place in our nation, then what does that say about a President who needs their support?


Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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