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Hey, It’s Not About Statues

Terry H. Schwadron

Aug. 18, 2017

Can we just agree: The discussion about white supremacy has nothing to do with statues.

Another tweet from President Trump yesterday said it is “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart” over the growing move by local and state officials to remove Confederate statues and monuments.

The death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va. from a white nationalist who drove into a crowd of protesters during a Unite the Right rally may have been marginally connected to removal of a Robert E. Lee statue. But that’s it. The President’s whole description of the intent of the rally for which he found blame on “both sides” repeatedly used the statues issue as a beard for the raw hate, anti-Semitism and racism that drew hundreds of armed white supremacists to the University of Virginia.

The non-stop cable television interviews with participants, if nothing else, shows a series of men and women who want white separatism, who want to end laws that don’t promote white privilege, who want government that accepts their values. And they are wearing Make America Great hats. The President said he and I (and you) saw different things in the news coverage about who was participating.

For what it is worth, it took President Trump no time at all to conclude yesterday’s car attack in Barcelona was a terrorist attack; again, the comparison with Charlottesville where the same crime took days for the President to issue any kind of appropriate response — before backing off.

It seems unreal to me that we are forced to minutely examine the President’s statements and tweets to state what is obvious. The great bulk of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and KKK came prepped for war and violence; if there were some people who wanted peaceful protest about statues, they were a minority. The great bulk of counter-protestors, including nuns, families and mostly unarmed people, just wanted to stop Nazi-ism and hate; if there were a few who were prepared for violent clash, they were a minority.

To hear the “peaceful” neo-Nazis chant “blood and soil,” a Nazi slogan, and “Jews don’t replace me,” to hear from those who were in the local synagogue while armed neo-Nazis stood watch outside, to hear the crude language of anti-black, anti-gay, anti-Semitic statements had nothing to do with statues. It had to do with white supremacy — and hate.

The Nazi story in Germany forms the basis of my family story. My mother was spat upon, was forced to wear the hated Star of David, her family was stripped of home and business. My mother was jailed as a 12-year-old for attending someone’s birthday party. My mother’s family was forced to leave, to cross Siberia and arrive in Shanghai in time to be locked in a wired, guarded ghetto by the Japanese invading Axis partners. She survived, but the few family members who made it through the ware are spread around the globe.

Donald Trump, don’t screw around with me. I know what Nazi-ism is about. This is not about statues. You care so much about statues that you want to eliminate all public money for the arts. So, who are you kidding?

A Washington Post opinion piece notes that Jews and non-Jews are drawn to debates about whether Jews are white. On the one hand, Jews have been discriminated against for centuries, including by white cultures from Nazi Germany to the United States. On the other, many Jews have attained a significant measure of acceptance, and many can often “pass” as white when not wearing traditional Jewish symbols.

By essentially equating neo-Nazis with counter-protesters, President Trump has lost a lot this week: He has lost his business supporters, he has put off Republican legislators, he has drawn international criticism. He is on the verge of losing Cabinet support from Jewish officials and astounded White House staffers. And he has totally lost any sense of an agenda. When the smoke clears, this week’s statements will force a harsher look at the lack of a legislative record, or lack of it, and, I’m sure, the next rounds of polls will show that his popular support outside of hard-core supporters (including white nationalists) is falling. This week has left the President isolated and seen as a yet-coarser, yet-more insulting, yet-less thinking and more impulsive character.

In fact, the questions by the end of the week is why figures like Gary D. Cohn, the economic adviser, is not walking away, and why the President’s own daughter, Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are Jewish, are silent, even on their vacation.

Last night the same Virginia campus showed what a peaceful protest is all about. Thousands gathered in candlelight simply to celebrate a world without hate.

What I do understand about the white supremacists is that they are angry, largely over a plethora of results that they see as blocking their way economically. What I don’t understand is what they want to do about this, about whether they really see a country without blacks, Latins and blacks, whether they think we would be better off without immigrants. What I really don’t understand is where they find the chutzpah to demand an Aryan nation that just won’t happen, that runs counter to demographic trends, to say nothing of what is moral, American values.

And I have no understanding other than the obvious why Donald Trump would want to encourage these folks.

What I know for sure is that none of this has to do with statues, other than that they are outdated homages to a time of slavery that hurt every time we see them. Some white supremacist should just buy them around the country and build his own museum.


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Journalist, musician, community volunteer

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