WRITER’S NOTE: I grappled with the decision of whether or not to write this for most of Tuesday evening. I know, for a fact, that I’m going to get my fair share of “stick to sports” or “stick to horse racing” replies, and I’m at peace with that. However, after giving this an incredible amount of thought, there was no way I couldn’t say something. If you’re not interested in my thoughts on this matter, I completely respect and understand that. To make a long story short, though: This article is written because there’s a lot going on right now that’s more important than who I like in the third at Saratoga.
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My great-uncle fought in World War II. He served in the Pacific and was wounded in the Battle of Saipan. Only lately has he been able to open up about it publicly (The Associated Press did an excellent piece on this in 2014 that you can read here if you’re so inclined).
Wilfred “Spike” Mailloux, who married my grandmother’s sister, is one of the greatest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, and certainly a true American hero. He’s pushing 100 years old, and he’s recently been honored as the last surviving member of Company B, 105th Regiment, 27th Division. I’ve never asked him about his service, and I’ve learned much of what I know through the articles that were written about him within the past few years.
I feel it safe to assume, though, that Uncle Spike didn’t think we’d be fighting the same battles he fought in 1944 in 2017.
Of course, I’m referring to the incidents of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. By now, you all know that in the midst of battles between white supremacists and counter-protesters, a 32-year-old woman died after she was mowed down by a car that also injured scores of others.
I won’t pretend to understand the ideologies of hate groups at home and abroad. I’m a digital media expert that doubles as a semi-professional horse racing handicapper, and I’ll leave those discussions and theories to people who are much, much more well-versed in that sort of thing than I am. I’m also not going to turn this into a political matter, which seems to be all the rage nowadays (for whatever it’s worth, since I’m well aware that people may speculate, I’m a political centrist who registered as a Republican back when that meant something MUCH different than what it means now, and I’ve got ideas that will scare people on both sides of the political spectrum to death).
Instead of all of that, which I believe would do zero good and make the horrible “signal-to-noise” ratio in this country even worse, I’m simply going to ask one question: When, in the name of everything holy, did it become OK for the President of the United States to defend Nazis in any way, shape, or form?
We’ve all seen the speeches, and I’m going to remove all emotion from this analysis for the sake of reporting the facts as they happened. Saturday night, after Heather Heyer was killed by a white supremacist, President Trump gave a vague statement criticizing hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. If you thought he misspoke while uttering those last three words, he removed all doubt by saying them again, firmly and with so much conviction that a neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, praised his comments.
Sunday, Donald Trump was quiet on Twitter while those around him condemned the attacks. Finally, on Monday, Trump broke his silence, but not until after several of the most influential figures in American business resigned from his American Manufacturing Council. While he had yet to make a clearer statement on the Charlottesville saga, he did not hesitate in calling out one of those businessmen, Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma, for what he called, in all-caps, “LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
Finally, at 1 p.m. Monday afternoon, nearly 48 hours after Heather Heyer was killed, Trump denounced white supremacists and Nazi organizations by name. It took 48 hours for the leader of the free world, one whose country dispatched a similar evil ideology seven decades earlier on the battlefields of Europe, to publicly condemn said ideology. Trump’s critics complained that it should not have taken this long for those remarks to be delivered and that those close to the president had already delivered comments in the same vein, while Team Trump complained about a lack of respect in the media (son Donald, Jr., complained about “moving goalposts”).
24 hours later, Trump’s comments took yet another turn, and more clearly resembled what he said Saturday. When behind the microphone at Trump Tower, he uttered the following statement.
“I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad and a group on the other side that was very violent.”
And with that, here we are. Once again, please let me stress that none of what I have written in the previous five paragraphs was opinion-based. None of it is speculation. This is an actual timeline of an actual leader’s handling of an actual, national crisis. There was no spin, simply facts that we can all agree happened and that are backed up by videos and archived tweets.
Hate is not okay. This is a concept that we all learned in elementary school. Every American, regardless of race, creed, or color, has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not every white American, not every Catholic American, and not every American that was born here, but every single resident of this country. This isn’t a high-brow political concept where there are many viewpoints that would be acceptable or valid. This is stuff we all learned in kindergarten, and it’s stuff that’s driven home as we grow up and realize that there’s a great, big world out there.
This leads to another fact, one that is damning and inescapably true: The man that was elected to lead the United States of America, and the man whose job it is to get us through times of crisis with a steady hand, attributed part of the blame for the situation in Charlottesville to people who were protesting white supremacists, possibly including the woman whose life was taken by a white supremacist who drove a car into a crowd of people with the intent to kill or injure.
This isn’t a partisan issue. This is a situation where the only acceptable response is that the belief of white supremacy is universally condemned, as is violence unleashed in the name of that cause. There are no sides, and there are no moral dilemmas involved, as evidenced by the considerable number of high-ranking Republican politicians (including Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, among others) who didn’t feel the need to wait to say or do the right things.
Now is when emotion comes into play.
President Trump, was Heather Heyer to blame for the situation that took her life? Would you knowingly approach her parents and talk about the “very nice people” who enabled the acts of violence we saw this past weekend? Do you sleep easier at night knowing that a portion of the people who assembled in Charlottesville to broadcast the perceived superiority of their race did so, and I’m quoting former KKK leader David Duke here, “to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump?”
I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Like a surprising number of fellow registered Republicans, I cast a reluctant vote for Hillary Clinton. Despite many reservations, I believed that she was much better-suited to handle leading the country through crises, which had become exceedingly more common in the past few years given the world’s unstable political climate. When Donald Trump won the election nine months ago, I hoped that he was ready to handle an issue like the one that popped up a few days ago in Charlottesville. I hoped I was wrong about him.
I wasn’t wrong.
In closing, I present this take on the matter put forth by a former college roommate of mine. This is Chris Barriere, a sports reporter based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and if I’ve addressed this situation half as eloquently as he did when opening one of his sportscasts, then I’ve done a heck of a job.