Hate has always existed in America. This president made it fashionable again.
A rally organized by an array of loosely-affiliated white nationalist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia began last night with a eerie, torch-lit march through the deserted-for-the-summer UVA campus. It ended in unspeakable tragedy this morning, when a car driving through a counterprotest accelerated suddenly into a crowd of people, killing one and injuring dozens more. Think about exactly what this means: A person lost their life because they had the audacity to join others in publicly and peacefully denouncing the myriad forms of bigotry took to the streets of Charlottesville today. Right now, this country is stretched closer than ever to a breaking point, and it is exactly the America that Donald Trump promised.
What happened in Charlottesville is despicable and horrifying. But it’s hard to call it a surprise, really. Long before Election Day, the people who now helm this administration were gleefully signaling that theirs would be a friendly one to people defined by hatred. The first article I ever wrote for GQ mocked then-vice presidential candidate Mike Pence for refusing to label David Duke, an actual former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, as “deplorable.” For any other politician, being asked about one’s affiliation with an avowed white supremacist is the biggest, juiciest question softball imaginable. And yet, although Pence meekly explained that the ticket didn’t want Duke’s support or the support of people who thought like him, he couldn’t bring himself to renounce them entirely. “I’m not in the name-calling business,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “You know me better than that.”
Eleven months later, behold the face of the most satisfied man on the planet:
When given perhaps the easiest opportunity to demonstrate a shred of moral courage—just denounce the white supremacists who killed someone in the street—the only response President Trump could muster today is a couple of “All Lives Matter”-esque tweets and a follow-up condemnation of the hatred, bigotry, and violence “on many sides.”
The explanation for this refusal to repudiate Nazis marching by torchlight—people waving crimson flags emblazoned with swastikas as they defiantly shout “Blood and Soil!”—is, basically,”Gotta hear both sides.” This president can’t bring himself condemn murder when doing so would risk alienating those of his supporters who committed it.
Not everyone who voted for Donald Trump is an unapologetic bigot who moderates Stormfront message boards in their spare time. But everyone who voted for him—who saw him speak and heard his rhetoric and believed in his vision for the future—did so understanding exactly with whom they were aligning themselves. For millions of Americans, the fact that their candidate happily courted votes by appealing to the most despicable impulses among us was not a deal-breaker, and the violence that that might result from his decision to give those people a voice was a risk they were willing to take. Now, seven months into his presidency, Donald Trump has fostered a environment in which people who may have once been ashamed of their shameful beliefs—who kept quiet at Thanksgiving and posted anonymously on Twitter and dutifully covered up their tattoos before going to work every morning—are now utterly unafraid to show their faces in broad fucking daylight.
Today marks the first terrorist attack to occur on this president’s watch, but it did not come at the hands of that one religious group he denigrates at every opportunity, and whose adherents he wants desperately to ban from entering the country. Instead, it was committed by people who have been living among us all along, quietly waiting for an opportunity that, at long last, has arrived. Hate has always existed in America. Donald Trump just made it fashionable again.
The President Under Investigation
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