This Is Serious . . . Very, Very Serious
Up until late yesterday, I was fully prepared to devote this week's essay to '45, North Korea and the insane rhetorical brinkmanship going back-and-forth between the two nuclear nations. Of how the POTUS has, whether consciously or not, taken a page from Richard Nixon's "I'm madder and badder than thou" playbook in order to scare the pants off of Kim Jong-un, and how '45's North Korean counterpart has ratcheted up his rhetoric to proclaim that his ICBM is " a gift for the American bastards" even as he promised a missile launch in the direction of Guam. I was looking forward to comparing '45's oratorical flourishes ("fire and fury like the world has never seen," as well as "locked and loaded,") to those of his North Korean counterpart, and quoting Asian sources who are now wondering aloud just who is more dangerous - Donald Trump or Kim Jong-un? I was even thinking about putting in a word or two about '45's wild and woolly threat to take military action against Venezuela.
I even had what I thought was a pretty good title containing just a soupçon of satire: This Is Serious . . . Very, Very Serious," which as any Indiana Jones aficionado knows, was said (in slightly abbreviated form) by cinema's favorite archaeologist/adventurer when he and "Short Round" (a.k.a. "Shorty") were trapped in a death room as long-bladed swords began slowly and ominously descending from the ceiling. This scene and quote was of course in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
And then along came the horrifying events of the past 24 hours in Charlottesville, Virginia, which shoved my original essay into the "maybe next week" column. The one thing I have salvaged from the North Korea/mutually assured insanity/utter chaos at the White House piece is the title, which works just as well . . . if not better.
This Is Serious . . . Very, Very Serious.
At this juncture, there is little need to go into much detail about the "Unite the Right" atrocity which took place in the town along the Rivanna River; constant cable coverage has pretty much made any such recap unnecessarily redundant. For certain, this is a story that will continue receiving coverage for many days, if not weeks to come. And among the media sidebars we should expect will be pieces putting faces on the leaders and major perpetrators, as well as informative (and no doubt chilling) sketches about the roughly one-dozen jack-booted, tiki-torch and Confederate flag-bearing, armed White Power, pro-Nazi, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic groups that gathered in the shadow of the University of Virginia and Jefferson's Monticello. Their goal? According to their leaders, to protest the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee from a nearby park. Their not so hidden agenda? To come to physical blows with any and all counter-protesters, thus sending a visual message to those who support their twisted, hate/fear-inspired Weltanschauung. We know what they are and who they hate: Jews, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, environmentalists, Democrats . . . indeed, anyone who doesn't look or think like them. What they fear is that America is no longer "theirs." In their rheumy eyes, America has been taken over by the dregs of society and must be stopped.
What took place on the streets of Charlottesville was obviously not spontaneous. Rather, it was the product of months of not-so-hidden prodding and planning and a couple of generations of growing, twisted psychopathology. Seeing the torch-bearing hundreds wearing their various uniforms, brandishing guns, rifles and automatic weapons while chanting the old Nazi refrain Blut und Boden ("blood and soil") was - and is - a stark reminder that something serious . . . very, very serious . . . is taking place in the United States. To wit, a growing and technologically savvy minority of miscreants who want to return to a time when America was controlled by White Men; when Jews, African Americans, women and immigrants knew their place and all heroes looked and sounded like John Wayne.
Rhetorical responses to the Charlottesville massacre - in which, as of this writing, 3 have died and more than 2 been dozen injured - have ranged from the predictably outraged to the shockingly hateful to the toxically tepid. A smattering of statements and Tweets:
- David Duke, former head of the KKK (who attended the "United the Right" rally) called is "a turning point" in the effort to help people like him "fulfill the promises of Donald Trump."
- Richard Spencer, co-editor of AltRight.com Tweeted "We came in peace. It was the police and antifa(cists) that used force against peaceful, lawful demonstrators.
- The POTUS's brief comment to the press was, to say the most, less than room temperature: "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives." Among the questions he ignored at the end of his statement were "Do you want the support of these white nationalists?" and "Do you think the violence in Charlottesville should be considered terrorism?"
Responses to 45's comments varied greatly:
- Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT): "We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home."
- Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO): "Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism."
- Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL): "Very important for the nation to hear @POTUS describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists."
- Andrew Aglin, Founder of the Daily Stormer (a neo-Nazi, white supremacist, alt-right website): "['45] refused to even mention anything to do with us. When reporters were screaming at him about White Nationalism he just walked out of the room."
- Barack Obama quoted Nelson Mandela: " . . . for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
- Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT): "No Mr. President. This is a provocative effort by Neo-Nazis to foment racism and hatred and violence. Call it out for what it is."
- Even Anthony Scaramucci '45's former Communications Director (he lasted less than 2 weeks) insisted “I think he needed to be much harsher as it relates to the white supremacists, you have to call that stuff out.”
Hours after these responses to his public comments - both negative and positive, the Tweeter-in-Chief took to the internet and wrote "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!"
Again, he did not specifically condemn the alt-Right, white supremacist or Neo-Nazi perpetrators. This is serious . . . very, very serious.
If '45 really, truly wants to "condemn all that hate stands for" he could start by immediately - and very publicly - firing:
- Stephen Bannon, his White House Chief Strategist and former Executive Chair of the far-right Breitbart News and
- Sebastian Gorka, his far-right, anti-Semitic Deputy Assistant, who came to his boss's inauguration wearing a badge, tunic, and ring of the Order of Vitéz, a far-right group listed by the State Department as having been " . . . under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany' during World War II." (It should also be noted that Gorka's mother Susan worked closely as a translator with David Irving, the discredited historian described by a judge as a "Holocaust denier … anti-Semitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism."
Alas, there is every reason to believe that '45 would gladly fire Bob Mueller and/or A.G. Sessions before he'd ever let go of Bannon and/or Gorka . . . and for the same reason: he doesn't want to do anything that would possibly alienate his beloved "base." For it's his base - which apparently includes white supremacists, neo-Nazis, racists and anti-Semites - that ultimately gives him the adulation and ego strokes which keeps his emotional/psychic furnace ablaze. It's this base that that makes him feel real, feel alive . . . feel presidential.
And this is serious . . . very, very serious.
Copyright©2017 Kurt F. Stone