Email #253: “alt-left”?

Condemnations of President Trump’s “many sides” response to fascist violence in Charlottesville is international.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May: “I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them.”

Scotland’s Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson: “The President of the United States has just turned his face to the world to defend Nazis, fascists and racists. For shame.”

Germany’s Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz: “One must denounce Nazis definitively. What Trump is doing is inflammatory. Whoever trivializes violence & hate betrays western values.”

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas: ”It is unbearable how Trump now also glosses over the violence during the march of the right-wing protests in Charlottesville. Nobody should trivialize the anti-Semitism and racism of neo-Nazis. When it comes to right-wing propaganda and violence, there is nothing to relativize.”

Former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni: “In Nazism, anti-Semitism and racism there are never two equal sides — only one side is evil. Period.”

Here in the U.S., members of your party are equally condemning.

Mitt Romney: “No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.”

Governor John Kasich: “Pathetic. Just pathetic, isn’t it? This is terrible. The president of the United States needs to condemn these kinds of hate groups. The president has to totally condemn this.”

Senator Rubio: “Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain. When entire movement built on anger & hatred towards people different than you, it justifies & ultimately leads to violence against them.”

Senator Graham: “President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members and the people like Ms. Heyer. Many Republicans do not agree with and will fight back against the idea that the Party of Lincoln has a welcome mat out for the David Dukes of the world.”

Senator Moran: “white supremacy, bigotry and racism have absolutely no place in our society, and no one – especially the President of the United States – should ever tolerate it. We must all come together as a country and denounce this hatred to the fullest extent.”

Senator Flake: “We cannot accept excuses for white supremacy and acts of domestic terrorism. We must condemn them. Period.”

Senator McCain: “There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate& bigotry. The President of the United States should say so.”

House Speaker Ryan: “We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”

Rep. McCarthy: “the violence was a direct consequence of the vile and hateful rhetoric and action from white supremacists.”

Rep. Dent: “@POTUS must stop the moral equivalency! AGAIN, white supremacists were to blame for the violence in #Charlottesville.”

Even corporate CEOs are condemning the President as they leave his administration’s advisoary committees.

General Electric chairman Jeff Immelt: “The Committee I joined had the intention to foster policies that promote American manufacturing and growth. However, given the ongoing tone of the discussion, I no longer feel that this Council can accomplish these goals.”

JP Morgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon: “Constructive economic and regulatory policies are not enough and will not matter if we do not address the divisions in our country. It is a leader’s role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart.”

Campbell Soup chief executive Denise Morrison: “Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville. I believe the president should have been — and still needs to be — unambiguous on that point.”

Former Medtronic CEO Bill George commented on the exodus: “It’s entirely stunning. He gave them great access. They’re on these councils, and all those industry committees are coming together. Now they’re saying, ‘I can’t tolerate this.’ This has never happened — not in my lifetime.”

NPR published a poll this morning finding that only 27% of Americans felt that the President’s response to Charlottesville was “strong enough.” Even 58% of Republicans believe the death of Heather Heyer should be investigated as an act of “domestic terrorism,” a term the President still refuses to use. This coincides with his lowest Gallup poll approval rating of 34%, the lowest of any president at the end of his first summer.

Despite the range and depth of these condemnations of the President, you have said nothing. It is not enough to condemn the fascists and KKK. President Trump says the blame falls equally on both sides, coining the term “alt-left” to describe the Charlottesville counter protestors who marched in moral defiance of the Unite the Right rally. By saying nothing, you are expressing agreement with the President’s opinion.

Your silence is morally repulsive.

 

Email #251: “praying for our Commonwealth”?

Charlottesville was no starting point. The Confederate flag appeared at multiple rallies during President Trump’s campaign. High school students in Silverton, Oregon displayed it at a Trump rally on Election Day, telling Hispanic classmates: “Pack your bags; you’re leaving tomorrow.” The two students were suspended, which wasn’t an option for other post-election Trump supporters who waved it in Durango, Colorado; Traverse City, Michigan’ St. Petersburg, Florida’ Hampton, Virginia; and Fort Worth, Texas.

White supremacists have been rallying around the Confederate flag for over a 150 years, but even Donald Trump supported removing it from South Carolina’s statehouse in 2015: “I think they should put it in the museum, let it go, respect whatever it is that you have to respect, because it was a point in time, and put it in a museum.” I’m not clear what there is to “respect,” but the “point in time” is called the Civil War. If you read the declarations of secession, the South began it for one reason and only one reason: to continue slavery.

President Trump’s chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon is the former head of Breitbart News, which said the Confederacy was “a patriotic and idealistic cause,” and that its flag “proclaims a glorious heritage.” This was posted after the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting, in which white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine people.

Now even conservative Republicans are calling on the President to remove Steve Bannon from his administration. Senator Cruz’s former campaign spokesperson Rick Tyler said yesterday: “If he doesn’t want this to consume his presidency, he needs to purge anyone involved with the alt-right. Breitbart has become a pejorative … It has been a vehicle for the alt-right. You can’t allow the Oval Office to be a vehicle for the alt-right.” Governor Kasich’s former campaign adviser John Weaver tweeted similarly: “Bannon, Miller, Gorka must go. Probably more. But I don’t want to hear this primarily staff issue. Give Kelly time my ass. Trump owns this.”

The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville literally centered around a statue of Robert E. Lee. The people of Charlottesville want to remove it; the KKK and other domestic terrorists drove into town with military weapons to preserve it, sailing Confederate and Nazi flags side-by-side. Whatever you may feel about “heritage,” the Confederate flag is irredeemably tainted by its use as a white supremacist symbol.

You said in the e-newsletter I received this morning: “We are all praying for our Commonwealth to come together and heal at this difficult time.” Private prayer is not enough. You must demonstrate where you stand on this moral issue by joining other Republicans to demand that the President remove Steve Bannon and other representatives of the alt-right from his administration. And you must acknowledge the Confederate flag as the defining icon of white nationalism and condemn its use.

Email #250: “asked to condemn”?

My family is flying home to Virginia today. I had thought that with you and the rest of Congress on vacation, and with the President on a working vacation in New Jersey, that little would have happened while we were away. Instead we return amid the President’s threats of nuclear war with North Korea and to a Virginia that is not only on the front page of U.S. newspapers but a top story in international papers too.

Since I rarely receive even form letters from you anymore, I have to assume that your staff disregards most of my messages. I did not, for example, receive a response to my June 19 email. I wrote:

“The KKK left a flier on my lawn last August—the same month that Donald Trump received the Republican nomination. They’re not the only white supremacists who voted for him because they think he represents their opinions. Because of that identification, false or not, the GOP has an enormous obligation to counter it.

“KKK voters right here in the 6th district voted for you because you’re a Republican. That’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility. You consistently win by huge margins, so your job doesn’t depend on the racist vote. Though if it did, it would still be your moral responsibility to reject it. The KKK and other white supremacist hate groups are rising in our front yards. What are you doing to stop them? What steps are you taking to address hate crimes and the role our President and your party has played in their increase?”

You of course have taken no steps. You have done nothing to stop the rise of white nationalism in Virginia. You haven’t even bothered to create a form letter because you do not respond to topics that do not interest you. The KKK and its support of the President and other GOP members wasn’t important enough in June. Two months later the rise of the KKK in Virginia is an international headline. Instead of responding to the growing crisis that I and I’m sure many others identified, you squandered that time doing nothing. I also wrote to you about the President and white supremacists on April 5:

Donald Trump is being sued for inciting violence. Three protestors were shoved and punched by his supporters at a Kentucky campaign rally last March. The assaults were recorded on video. One of the supporters later apologized, admitting that he “physically pushed a young woman down the aisle toward the exit” after “Trump kept saying ‘get them out, get them out.” Another supporter has attempted to hide the fact that he belongs to a white nationalist group and was at the rally because he believes Trump shares his views.

Trump’s lawyers say he didn’t mean for them to use force, but the judge saw more than enough evidence that the assaults were a direct result of Trump’s violence-inciting words: “It was an order, an instruction, a command.” Trump’s lawyers also tried to hide the fact that the crowd shouted racist and sexist slurs at one of the protesters. The judge said: “While the words themselves are repulsive, they are relevant to show the atmosphere in which the alleged events occurred.”

You did not respond to this letter either. Have enough of your constituents written to you now about the President and white supremacists for you to create a new form letter yet? Alternatively, you could stop pretending that your personal political agenda justifies your blind support of a bigoted President. The neo-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer was pleased by President Trump’s response to the rally and terror attack: “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”

You are being asked to condemn the President, and you are walking out of the room too. But no one is blessing you for it. You should instead consider President Kennedy’s paraphrase of Dante: “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.”

Email #194: “Trump’s gonna getcha”

Yesterday the body of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen was found dumped in a pond in northern Virginia. The young woman was attacked as she was leaving her Dulles-area mosque early Sunday morning and killed with what detectives reportedly told her mother was a metal bat to her head. The suspected killer has been arrested, but the crime has not yet been officialy categorized as a hate crime.

The death of Ms. Hassanen continues a horrific pattern. On May 21st, “Alt-Reich Nation” member Sean Urbanski killed Richard Collins, an African American and U.S. Army lieutenant. On May 26th, white supremacist Jeremy Christian killed two and severely injured a third train passenger who attempted to stop him from attacking two Muslim women. Both incidents are being prosecuted as hate crimes.

The pattern did not begin there. Days after the election, President-elect Trump said he was “surprised to hear” his supporters were using racial slurs and threatening African Americans, Latinos, and gays. The President was still living in New York then, so he must also have been surprised to hear Police Commissioner James O’Neill report that hate crimes were

“up 31% from last year. We had at this time last year 250; this year we have 328. Specifically against the Muslim population in New York City, we went up from 12 to 25. And anti-Semitic is up, too, by 9% from 102 to 111.”

When asked why, O’Neil said:

“you’ve been paying attention to what’s been going on in the country over the last year or so and the rhetoric has increased, and I think that might have something to do with it.”

The Commissioner was referring to President Trump and his divisive campaign rhetoric.

The FBI also documented a 6% increase in hate crimes last year, especially against Muslims, and in the month following the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented over a thousand “bias-related harassment and intimidation” crimes across the country. The Anti-Defamation League found 1,266 cases of anti-Semitic harassment in 2016, compared to 941 and 912 in the two previous years. They’ve already found almost twice as many incidents so far this year as compared to this point in 2016.

The Southern Poverty Law Center website includes a recording left on a church’s answering machine:

“I think this is the gay church, that help gays that get kicked out of the country along with all the fricken Mexicans that are illegal that you guys are hiding illegally. I hope Trump gets ya. Trump Trump Trump. Trump Trump Trump. Trump’s gonna get your asses out of here and throw you over the wall. You dirty rotten scumbags. Hillary is a scumbag bitch. Too bad waaa waaa. Hillary lost. Hillary lost. Trump’s gonna getcha and throw you over the wall.”

37% of these criminals “directly referenced either President-elect Donald Trump, his campaign slogans, or his infamous remarks about sexual assault.”

As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, you have been especially vigilant about publicizing crimes committed by immigrants. But given your committee’s focus on crime and immigration policy, shouldn’t you be equally vigilant about crimes committed against immigrants and other minorities?

The KKK left a flier on my lawn last August—the same month that Donald Trump received the Republican nomination. They’re not the only white supremacists who voted for him because they think he represents their opinions. Because of that identification, false or not, the GOP has an enormous obligation to counter it.

KKK voters right here in the 6th district voted for you because you’re a Republican. That’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility. You consistently win by huge margins, so your job doesn’t depend on the racist vote. Though if it did, it would still be your moral responsibility to reject it. The KKK and other white supremacist hate groups are rising in our front yards. What are you doing to stop them? What steps are you taking to address hate crimes and the role our President and your party has played in their increase?

At least your colleague Rep. Comstock visited Nabra’s mosque yesterday before releasing a statement:

“We are heartbroken and horrified by the news of the brutal murder of a beautiful 17-year old girl. We know there is no greater pain for any parent and Chip and I extend our prayers to her family and loved ones at this difficult time and the entire ADAMS Center community. We commend the Fairfax County Police Department and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s office for their diligent work in apprehending the perpetrator. This case should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

I assume we will be hearing your statement later today.

Email #22, Subject: Merry Christmas

You wrote recently in your website column that Christmas is “for all of us who need the peace offered by God himself through Jesus Christ.” Since you are writing as the Representative of Virginia’s 6th district, are you only addressing those of us who are Christians? Personally, I love Christmas. My kids will be waking up soon, and we’ll start pulling out presents from under the tree. But this is the least peace I’ve felt at Christmas that I can remember. A minority of Americans have elected an outspoken bigot and misogynist to the White House, someone who has vowed to rip apart immigrant families, someone whose campaign has increased hate crimes across the nation. My family feels afraid—I can only imagine what Latino families feel, or Muslims, or those with gay loved ones. You are not offering peace—you are giving us the most divisive President in modern history. Your party has embraced Donald Trump and the rhetoric of hate. And it is offensively hypocritical of you to then mouth words of peace and unification. I do wish you and your family a merry Christmas. But instead of peace I hope God through Jesus Christ opens your eyes to the fears you are inflicting on us all.

Chris Gavaler