Chasing a Northern Confederate Out of the South

The Washington Post proclaims: “Protesters mob provocative Va. governor candidate as he defends Confederate statue.” Six seconds of video of the incident involved is likely to show up eventually here or here.

I was there on Saturday shouting down the “provocative” celebrator of racism and war, together with my kids and some friends. The only hostility I saw came from supporters of keeping the giant statue of Robert E. Lee in the park here in Charlottesville.

This was an email I had sent around the night before:

“Republican Candidate for Governor Corey Stewart is coming to Charlottesville Saturday to do a Facebook Live event at 10:00 AM in Lee Park to denounce the Charlottesville City Council for voting to remove a symbol of racism and war. Here’s a report on his efforts to deport immigrants. Here’s an announcement of Saturday’s event. Please show up at 9:45 and bring posters. Here are some ideas:
Black Lives Matter
Celebrate Racism and War Somewhere Else
Love Beyond Flags
Love Trumps Hate
Welcome Refugees, Not Bigots
make up your own!”

These were the chants that were chanted and which I joined in on:

“Hey Hey Ho Ho White Supremacy Has Got to Go!”
“You take Lee. We’ll take freedom!”

“Well what are you?” demanded a bewildered elderly white man of me when I opposed white supremacy and failed to be impressed by his showing me an American flag and shouting “This is an American flag!”

Presumably he didn’t suppose you could look at someone and tell that they were a white supremacist. Presumably he just didn’t make a distinction between being white and being a white supremacist. What am I? I’m a human being. You can put whatever antiquated labels you like on my appearance, but I’m not on your team if everyone isn’t.

“But he wasn’t a racist!” a woman explained to me about General Lee. Is that the point? To arrive at the mental state of the dead guy depicted in the sculpture? This monumental soldier on a horse was put in a whites-only park by a wealthy racist in the 1920s. And if that urban “benefactor,” too, was “not a racist,” that hardly impacts the fact that thousands of people are offended by the statue and its glorification of war — and of war for the maintenance and expansion of slavery.

“You don’t want war? Well, this statue makes people think before they go to war?” I was told.

“Yeah, a glorified giant on a horse does that?”

“Yes, look at how he’s contemplating.”

“A realistic depiction of war would show missing limbs and screams of agony.”

“Why in the world would you want to do that?”

“To make people think before they go to war.”

“But that’s what this does.”

Are these useful conversations? Perhaps.

Should we let racist, bigoted, glorifiers of war and demonizers of immigrants parade through our town denouncing democratic decisions like the one made after lengthy public debate to remove an old and obnoxious statue? Do we have to let Candidate Confederacy — actually a racist Northerner who claims to out-Trump Trump — have his video-op on the corporate news, and then wait our turn until we’re six feet under to offer an appropriate rebuttal?

I don’t think so. I don’t think this is that moment.

First they came for the Muslims and the pacifists. And we said: “Not this time!”

I spoke with a friendlier individual away from the Confederate flags and shouts of “Anti-American!” This person agreed with my point that wars make the United States less safe, but within the next breath came: “But my only concern is if some of the people serving in the military defending us might not like the idea of removing the statue.”

The wars are endangering us. The people fighting in them are “defending us,” even if they aren’t. This is what we’re up against. Un-indoctrinating people with troop propaganda requires conversations that don’t fit on television. Those are very worthwhile, but they take lots of time.

A political commercial for racism and war glorification is a different matter entirely. Let the would-be governor send his comments in via Skype. Our message is: Charlottesville is no place for that.

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