Email #280: “ignoring history”?

Although you did not respond to my letter asking for your position on the public display of Confederate statues, another of your constituents shared on Facebook the form letter you sent to her.

You expressed “concerns about ignoring history by their removal” and likened the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to take down its Lee statue to the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s 1984. You said “when the government removes facts and history from the past, citizens of today and the future cannot learn the vital lessons they would have otherwise imparted.” You also encouraged “those advocating for the removal of Confederacy related items to find appropriate ways to educate all Americans.”

I agree that these statues are an excellent opportunity for education that we should all embrace, and so let me share with you the historical context of the statue of Lee that was the literal center point of the white supremacist rally last month.

The statue was commissioned by Paul McIntire in 1917 after he purchased and donated the property for what he named Lee Park. This was during the rise of the second KKK and the white supremacist movement of eugenics across the U.S. Although the Klan is most often recalled as a terrorist organization limited to the South during the Reconstruction period, it was reformed nationally in 1915 after the widely acclaimed blockbuster film The Birth of a Nation adapted the 1905 novel The Clansman, a melodramatic best-seller that portrayed the KKK as the righteous and heroic protectors of the South from the villainy of “Negro Rule.” This was a standard interpretation of history during the first decades of the 20th century. Staunton-born President Woodrow Wilson was one of the majority of Americans who agreed. After a special screening of The Birth of a Nation in the White House, Wilson commented: “it is all so terribly true.”

When the Lee statue was finally erected in 1924, the KKK controlled a majority of delegates in the Democratic National Convention. The Convention was held in New York city that year, and after the party defeated a platform resolution that would have condemned Klan violence, thousands of KKK members, including Convention delegates, held a celebratory rally in New Jersey. The following year, 30,000 Klan members marched in full regalia in Washington DC. National membership was estimated well over three million.

The popularity of the Klan reflected the wider white nationalism of eugenics, which in the pre-DNA science of genetics argued for the hereditary superiority of northern Europeans. Following the advice of the Carnegie Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation, and other eugenics advocates, federal and state governments attempted to protect white bloodlines through immigration restrictions, racial segregation, anti-interracial marriage laws, and forced sterilization. Madison Grant’s white supremacist treatise The Passing of the Great Race became a national best-seller in 1916, calling for the sterilization of “worthless race types.” President Theodore Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler both praised the book. Hitler also said Germany needed to model itself on the U.S., especially California and Virginia, the leading states in the eugenics movement.

In May 1924, five days after the Lee statue was erected, President Coolidge signed the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, drastically reducing the immigration of non-Anglo Saxons and excluding Asians entirely. Coolidge explained: “America must be kept American. Biological laws show¼that Nordics deteriorate when mixed with other races.” Two months earlier, the Virginia Legislature passed The Racial Integrity Act, joining twenty-eight other states in barring marriage between whites and non-whites.  The Virginia Sterilization Act passed on the same day, targeting African Americans and mixed-race “mongrels.”

The 1924 president of your alma mater and my employer, Washington and Lee University, presented the Lee statue at its public unveiling—an event run by the local chapter of the Confederate Veterans, Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, organizations dedicated to the revisionist history of the Civil War and Reconstruction supported by the KKK and the wider eugenics movement. That statue, which the Charlottesville city website describes as “quieter but more dignified and powerful” than the original design which emphasized Lee’s “vitality,” venerates rather than records its selective interpretation of history.

This is the history lesson surrounding Charlottesville’s statue of Lee. Assuming that you were merely ignorant of these facts when you likened the Charlottesville City Council to 1984’s Ministry of Truth, I hope you will reconsider your statement. The continuing display of the Lee statue supports the Orwellian rewriting of history accomplished by white supremacists a century ago.

Email #266: “failure at the highest political level”?

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination monitors implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which the U.S. ratified in 1994. The Committee sometimes issues statements through its Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedures.  Last year, it issued two about Burundi. It also warned about Iraq in 2014, Côte d’Ivoire in 2011, and Kyrghystan and Nigeria in 2010. The Committee issued its first warning statement of 2017 just last week. It was about the U.S.

The Committee was responding to “the horrific events in Charlottesville of 11-12 August, 2017 leading to the death of Ms. Heather Heyer, and the injuries inflicted on many other protestors, as well as the terrible beating of Mr. Deandre Harris by white supremacists.”

It was alarmed “by the racist demonstrations, with overtly racist slogans, chants and salutes by individuals belonging to groups of white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan, promoting white supremacy and inciting racial discrimination and hatred.”

It was also disturbed “by the failure at the highest political level of the United States of America to unequivocally reject and condemn the racist violent events and demonstrations led by the aforementioned groups, thereby potentially fuelling the proliferation of racist discourse and incidents throughout the State party, and deeply concerned by the example this failure could set for the rest of the world.”

The Committee reiterated the United Nations position that “there should be no place in the world for racist white supremacist ideas or any similar ideologies that reject the core human rights principles of human dignity and equality and seek to degrade the standing of individuals and groups on the grounds of race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin.”

As a result, it called on the U.S. “to fully respect its international obligations and in particular those arising from the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to combat and eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.”

It also called upon our “high-level politicians and public officials, not only to unequivocally and unconditionally reject and condemn racist hate speech and racist crimes in Charlottesville and throughout the country, but also to actively contribute to the promotion of understanding, tolerance, and diversity between ethnic groups, and acknowledge their contribution to the history and diversity of the United States of America.”

The Committee urged the U.S. “to ensure that all human rights violations which took place in Charlottesville, in particular with regards the death of Ms. Heyer, are thoroughly investigated, alleged perpetrators prosecuted and if convicted, punished with sanctions commensurate with the gravity of the crime, and provide effective remedies to victims and their families.”

Since you are the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the UN’s urging is directed especially at you. Oversight of the Justice Department is your obligation, and so it falls on you to ensure that the Department investigates these human rights violations and prosecutes them accordingly. Have you contacted Attorney General Sessions to request information about the death of Ms. Heyer yet? You have written multiple similar letters to the Attorney General when criminal cases were of particular interest to you—when, for instance, an immigrant teen was accused (though later exonerated) for raping a fellow high school student in Maryland last year. The murder of Ms. Heyer took place right here in Virginia, just a few miles from your own district.

I am alarmed and disturbed that our country has joined the very short list of countries that have received the attention of the United Nations for failing to abide by the Elimination of Racial Discrimination convention. How did we become like Burundi and Iraq? I assume you are alarmed and disturbed too and will take appropriate action.

Fortunately a Republican member of your House Judiciary Committee has already begun this important oversight process. Representative Issa wrote to you on August 17: “As members of the committee of jurisdiction on issues related to civil rights and democracy, we too have a unique duty to examine the impact recent displays of hatred from white supremacist groups have on civil rights in America. Therefore, I write today to call for the full Committee to hold a hearing on this topic when we return in September.”

Rep. Issa’s suggested hearing would help to meet the UN’s recommendation that the U.S. government “take concrete measures to address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations, and thoroughly investigate the phenomenon of racial discrimination targeting in particular against people of African descent, ethnic or ethno-religious minorities, and migrants.”

Like a majority of your constituents, I share Rep. Issa’s and the UN’s concerns and look forward to your announcement of a hearing next week.

Email #260: “messed up”?

Speaker Ryan criticized President Trump during a town hall meeting this week: “I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity. You’re not a good person if you’re there, it’s so very clear.”

Ryan repeated the criticism, but also indicated that he thought the President had already corrected his statements about Charlottesville: “It was not only morally ambiguous, it was equivocating. And that was wrong. That’s why I think it was very, very important that he has since then cleared that up. I think it was important that he did that tonight.” He repeated the claim when asked if he would ask the President to apologize: “I think just he needs to do better and I think he just did.”

I assume Speaker Ryan was referring to the address the President made about Afghanistan just prior to the town hall, but looking at the transcript I see nothing about Charlottesville or Neo-Nazis or the so-called alt-left. The only statement the President made that could be interpreted as addressing Charlottesville was at best indirect and generic: “Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name, that when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one.”

Ryan said before the President’s speech: “we all need to make clear there is no moral relativism when it comes to neo-Nazis. We cannot allow the slightest ambiguity on such a fundamental question.” In what sense did the President’s ambiguous remark provide any new clarity?

Still, I applaud Speaker Ryan’s ability to at least acknowledge that President Trump“messed up”—though his phrase would suit something significantly less important than how Ryan himself described the magnitude of the issue. I also applaud him for holding a town hall. It is his first since October 2015. Of course it was a highly constrained one. It was hosted by CNN and held in a small venue with CNN selecting participants from Ryan’s district and screening questions. But that is a significant improvement over the even more controlled interactions that he has used for the past two years, which are usually private and allow Ryan’s staff to screen questions directly.

One of Ryan’s fellow Wisconsin Representatives, Democrat Mark Pocan, said afterwards: “Hopefully the media event that occurred tonight will convince Paul Ryan that talking to his constituents is a good idea. In the remaining weeks when Paul is home, he might want to schedule a real town hall or two and explain his health care bill that drops tens of millions of people’s coverage, as well as discuss his tax preferences that would give the top 1 percent more tax breaks while working Americans continue to struggle.”

You have not held a real town hall since August 2013, twice as long as Ryan. While a traditional format is preferable, would you be willing to meet with your constituents in a town hall of the kind hosted by CNN for the Speaker? It would be a small venue and include only 6th district residents with a third party selecting pre-submitted questions and hosting the interactions on stage with you. There would be no shouting, no signs, no protests of any kind, just you answering reasonable questions posed directly by people you represent. It worked for Speaker Ryan, and his was televised live nationally while yours would not be. The format is conducive to conversation and so answers your objection to traditional town halls that allow large, angry crowds.

If you reject even this format, could you please explain on what grounds you find it unacceptable? And is there any format of any kind that you would find acceptable? What will it take to get you in a room with more than a dozen polite constituents?

Email #258: “our beautiful statues”?

President Trump opposes the removal of Confederate statues: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

As a resident of Lexington and an employee of your alma mater, Washington and Lee University, this is especially concerning to me. Our town has been called a “Mecca of the War Between the States,” and a statue of Stonewall Jackson centers our town cemetery. Our Virginia Military Institute has four Confederate statues on its campus. When Washington and Lee’s previous president chose to stop displaying Confederate flags in the main space of Lee Chapel, he and his wife received death threats. Our current president has been asked to accept Confederate symbols removed from other locations to display on our campus. He’s declined.

University of Texas at Austin removed four statues of Confederate generals on Monday. President Greg Fenves said: “Last week, the horrific displays of hatred at the University of Virginia and in Charlottesville shocked and saddened the nation. These events make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monuments have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”

On Saturday in North Carolina, Duke University removed a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee after it was vandalized. President Vincent Price said: “I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university.”

In Kentucky, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray announced the removal of two Confederate statues: “I think in times like this it’s extremely important that elected officials communicate clearly with their constituents — it’s time to stand up and speak out, not sit back and relax.”

On the Monday after the Charlottesville terrorism, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said: “It is my intention to move forward with the removal of Baltimore City’s confederate statues.” The city council unanimously approved a resolution to destroy the statues. Councilman Brandon Scott said: “What no one who saw what we saw in Charlottesville … should do is sit back and just say that we should allow these monuments to stay up across our country, so these folks have lightning rod to come to. They should be melted down and re-purposed to honor true American heroes.”

Other Confederate statues and monuments have been or are in the process of being removed in California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, Virginia, Texas, and Washington, D.C. Most were erected while Jim Crows were being established in the 1890s and in the 1950s while Southern states were resisting the Civil Rights movement.

In Richmond, Mayor Levar Stoney is forming a committee to “redefine the false narrative” around their confederate statues. A Confederate heritage rally is planned at one of the statues on September 16. Such rallies occur annually in Lexington, and Confederate flaggers displayed their flags on Main Street as recently as Saturday.

What is your position on Confederate flags and statues? Do you believe they simply reflect regional pride or do they, as the president of Duke University said, “represent the subjugation of African Americans”? Do you deny they are the symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism? Given their history and association, do you stand with the President in regarding them as “beautiful”?

Email #257: “come together again”?

The President tweeted on Saturday: “Our great country has been divided for decade, but it will come together again.Sometimes protest is needed in order to heel,and heel we will!”

In Boston on the same day, 40,000 counter-protestors overwhelmed the few dozen members of an alt-right “free speech” rally. But in Berlin on Saturday, 500 neo-Nazis marched to commemorate the death of Hitler’s deputy Rudolph Hess. One of the members told reporters that he was watching the events in Charlottesville with “delight” because Nazis in the U.S. are “finally standing up.” A counter-protestor said she came because of President Trump’s disturbing remarks about Charlottesville: “Donald Trump brought me here today.”

Donald Trump also brought 359 of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s Yale classmates together to write Mnunchin a letter on Friday: “President Trump has declared himself a sympathizer with groups whose values are antithetical to those values we consider fundamental to our sacred honor as Americans, as men and women of Yale, and as decent human beings. President Trump made those declarations loudly, clearly, and unequivocally, and he said them as you stood next to him… We believe it is your moral obligation to resign your post as Secretary of the Treasury, effective immediately.”

Though Mnunchin has not resigned, Carl Icahn, the President’s billionaire advisor on deregulation, did resign on Friday, reportedly because of a forthcoming New Yorker article detailing his conflicts of interests. This comes a day after the President fired his chief strategist Steve Bannon reportedly for accidentally telling The American Prospect: “Ethno-nationalism—it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more. These guys are a collection of clowns.” Bannon is returning to the alt-right Brietbart website, where he says he will “go to war” on behalf of the Trump agenda. Despite firing him, the President tweeted: “Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews…maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!”

Fox News is one of the few news sources the President doesn’t call “fake,” but James Murdoch, 21st Century Fox CEO and son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, still condemned the President in an email to friends: “what we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the president of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people… The presence of hate in our society was appallingly laid bare as we watched swastikas brandished on the streets of Charlottesville and acts of brutal terrorism and violence perpetrated by a racist mob. I can’t even believe I have to write this: Standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.”

Equally conservative Liberty University alumni are returning their diplomas to protest their university’s president Jerry Falwell Jr.’s support of President Trump after his remarks about Charlottesville. Former Student Government Association president and 2006 graduate Chris Gaumer said: “I’m sending my diploma back because the president of the United States is defending Nazis and white supremacists.  And in defending the president’s comments, Jerry Falwell Jr. is making himself and, it seems to me, the university he represents, complicit.”

Due to such protests, the President cancelled his scheduled attendance at the Kennedy Center Honors on Saturday: “The president and first lady have decided not to participate in this year’s activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.” Though this is only the fourth time in the event’s forty years that a president has not attended, the Center was thankful: “In choosing not to participate in this year’s Honors activities, the administration has graciously signaled its respect for the Kennedy Center and ensures the Honors gala remains a deservingly special moment for the honorees.” The President also cancelled his reception afterwards, because at least one honoree, Carmen de Lavallade, was already boycotting it: “In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House.”

Susan Bro, the mother of the Heather Heyer who was murdered in Charlottesville, is also refusing to meet with President Trump: “I’m not talking to the president now. I’m sorry. After what he said about my child, and – it’s not that I saw somebody else’s tweets about him, I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters like Ms. Heyer with the KKK and the white supremacists. You can’t wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying I’m sorry. I’m not forgiving for that.” The President attempted to phone Ms. Bro four days after the murder, but she refused to take the call. When a police officer was shot and killed in San Antonio in November, he called the next day.

Other conservative news sources continue to condemn the President. The Economist called him “politically inept, morally barren and temperamentally unfit for the office.” The UK’s conservative The Spectator said: “Yet again, Trump has demonstrated the extent to which he is unsuited to be president. But yet again we can also see the forces at work that led him to power.”

Those forces include you and other members of the Republican party who continue to support him despite his actions. Former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and Homeland Security secretary in the Bush administration Tom Ridge asked: “At what point does a principled party stand up for its principles? You can’t be afraid of losing an election because you stood up for what was right.”

Is your silence about the President based solely on your fear of losing reelection in 2018? I saw last week that you have a new Democratic challenger. Does them mean you will pander even more now to racist Trump supporters instead of standing up for American principles? President Trump is bringing the country together in moral opposition to him. How long will you remain on the wrong side?

Email #255: “his true intent”?

Condemnations of President Trump continue daily.

Five more charities cancelled fundraising events at the President’s Mar-a-Lago yesterday: Susan G. Komen, the International Red Cross, the Salvation Army; the Autism Association of Palm Beach County, and Big Dog Ranch Rescue. That brings the total to eight.

The President’s 16-member Committee on the Arts and Humanities all resigned on Friday too. They told the President: “Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville. The false equivalencies you push cannot stand… Supremacy, discrimination, and vitriol are not American values. Your values are not American values. We must be better than this. We are better than this. If this is not clear to you, then we call on you to resign your office, too.”

The President’s Joint Chiefs of Staff also responded to his Tuesday press conference by issuing statements on Twitter and Facebook that openly contradict their Commander-in-Chief.

Army Chief, General Mark Milley: “The Army doesn’t tolerate racism, extremism, or hatred in our ranks. It’s against our Values and everything we’ve stood for since 1775.”

Air Force Chief, General David Goldfein: “I stand with my fellow service chiefs in saying we’re always stronger together-it’s who we are as Airmen.”

Naval Operations Chief, Admiral John Richardson: “The shameful events in Charlottesville are unacceptable and must not be tolerated… The Navy will forever stand against intolerance and hatred. For those on our team, we want our Navy to be the safest possible place–a team as strong and tough as we can be, saving violence only for our enemies.”

Marine Corps Commandant, General Robert Neller: “No place for racial hatred or extremism in @USMC. Our core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment frame the way Marines live and act”

National Guard Chief, General Joseph Lengyel: “I stand with my fellow Joint Chiefs in condemning racism, extremism & hatred. Our diversity is our strength.”

Republican politicians continue to condemn the President too. Former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger said yesterday: “The only way to beat the loud, angry voice of hate is to meet them with louder, more reasonable voices. That includes you, President Trump. In fact, as president of this great country, you have a moral responsibility to send an unequivocal message that you won’t stand for hate and racism.”

Mitt Romney expanded his earlier criticism of the President yesterday too: “Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn… His apologists strain to explain that he didn’t mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric… He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville.”

In fact, Romney’s statement about Donald Trump from June 2016 now appears disturbingly prescient: “I think his comments time and again appeal to the racist tendency that exists in some people, and I think that’s very dangerous… I don’t want to see a president of the United States saying things which change the character of the generations of Americans that are following. Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation. And trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny — all of these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America.”

Instead of responding to any of this criticism, the President is planning his own rally next week in Phoenix. Mayor Greg Stanton responded: “I am disappointed that President Trump has chosen to hold a campaign rally as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville. It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit…. If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation.”

I think the entire country now fully understands the President’s “true intent.” I believe you do too.  I don’t know if your refusal to condemn him is based on political calculation or cowardice or both, but the longer you remain silent, the greater your culpability for the damage President Trump is causing our country.

Email #254: “staying silent”?

The list of GOP politicians condemning the President grows daily.

Senator Corker: “I do think there needs to be radical changes. The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to be successful. Helping inspire divisions because it generates support from your political base is not a formula for causing our nation to advance, our nation to overcome the many issues we have to deal with right now.”

Senator Scott: “I’m not going to defend the indefensible … comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened. There’s no question about that.”

Even his daughter and son-in-law’s rabbi is condemning the President. Rabbi Emeritus Haskel Lookstein wrote to his congregation: “We are appalled by this resurgence of bigotry and antisemitism, and the renewed vigor of the neo-Nazis, KKK, and alt-right. While we avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in his response to this act of violence.”

More businesses are expressing condemnation of the President too. Yesterday three fundraisers cancelled galas at the President’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach. The American Cancer Society said: “Our values and commitment to diversity are critical as we work to address the impact of cancer in every community. It has become increasingly clear that the challenge to those values is outweighing other business considerations.”

The Cleveland Clinic and the American Friends of Magen David Adom cancelled events on Thursday too. This is in addition to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and at least four other organizations that already refused to hold events at the President’s resort. The head of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce called Mar-a-Lago “morally reprehensible” on Thursday and predicted even more charities would follow.

But the President does have his supporters. His lawyer, John Dowd, forwarded an email by Jerome Almon, a conspiracy theorist who alleges that the FBI has been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists and that Black Lives Matters is a terrorist organization. The email is titled “The Information that Validates President Trump on Charlottesville” and argues: “You cannot be against General Lee and be for General Washington, there literally is no difference between the two men.”

President Trump’s Virginia campaign chair Corey Stewart also supports him: “The president is absolutely right. After they get done removing statues to Confederate generals because, arguably, they fought to preserve the institution of slavery, they are going right after slave owners, including the founders — Jefferson, Madison, Washington — and when you undermine the founding fathers, you undermine the founding documents, namely the Constitution of the United States.”

And of course white supremacists are pleased by the President’s attempt to blame the “alt-left” for the violence in Charlottesville too. The Grand Dragon of North Carolina’s Loyal White Knights of Ku Klux Klan shares the President’s view that counter protestors were in the wrong: “I’m sorta glad that them people got hit, and I’m glad that girl died. To me, they were a bunch of communists out there protesting against somebody’s freedom of speech, so it doesn’t bother me that they got hurt at all.”

Will you join your fellow Republicans in condemning President Trump, or will you remain silent and tacitly validate the views of people like Stewart, Almon, and the KKK? Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said it best on Wednesday: “I think in learning history, that we know that staying silent on these issues is simply not acceptable. It is a dishonor to our country’s veterans for the Nazis and the white supremacists to go unchallenged, and that we all have to speak up about this as Americans.”

Or you can maintain the hypocrisy of his staff who admitted that the President’s Tuesday press conference was not an aberration but was an accurate expression of his long-held opinions. The New York Times reported: “Members of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private… In contrast, the president told close aides that he felt liberated by his news conference. Aides said he seemed to bask afterward in his remarks, and viewed them as the latest retort to the political establishment that he sees as trying to tame his impulses.”

Do you also feel liberated by the President’s remarks? Are you basking in his retort? I would like to believe you are a significantly better human being than that, but your silence shouts otherwise. Until this week, you have had the political convenience of willed ignorance, but now you and all the world understand who Donald Trump is. It is time for you to speak up and challenge the fascist sympathizer in the White House.

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.”