Commentary by Justin Salters
“Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country.”
These powerful words were delivered by candidate Donald J. Trump in August of 2016.
They should have been used anew by President Donald J. Trump in August of 2017.
Unfortunately, it appears that the moral clarity required to condemn the hatred, oppression, and violence of Radical Islam beyond our border is not the same moral clarity needed to name and condemn the hatred, oppression, and violence of modern racism and shameless incitation of white supremacy within
Last weekend was a deflating rebuke to the hope that racism is a relic of American history, a moral stain relegated to history books and classes. Instead, Americans woke up Saturday morning to a dizzying array of live streamed racial barbarism, a nauseating potpourri of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, neo-Klansmen, neo-Confederates and the alt-right walking American streets of 2017 with an ostentatious display reminiscent of an earlier time of hoses, dogs, and brutality. As if the display wasn’t disturbing enough, an act of domestic terrorism was committed by one of their own, James Alex Fields, Jr., who used his vehicle as a ramming weapon to injure dozens and kill Heather Heyer.
There is an adage often attributed to Tocqueville that, “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” Last weekend was the furthest thing from good. President Trump’s inability to explicitly condemn the evils of racism, white supremacy and the alt-right is a wound to the good of America. His use of the phrase “very fine people” to describe a single one of the participants in last weekend’s events is a gash that should would our American souls.
It’s not difficult to name and condemn white supremacists. It’s not difficult to name and condemn acts of alt-right terrorism. It’s not difficult to distance yourself from an ideology of hate. Most of all, it’s absolutely not difficult to know that a President should never refer to anyone who subscribes to such ideologies as “a very fine person.”
Very fine people do not participate in rallies decorated with the symbols of genocide and an ideology for which millions of Americans sacrificed their lives to defeat.
We cannot ignore the enemy that lurks within. We cannot “make America great again” if we lack the moral clarity to condemn the evils of racism and white supremacy. If not evidence of moral bankruptcy, failure to do so represents a disgraceful moral opaqueness. Without our moral clarity, we lose part of the essence of what makes us good.
Some Trump apologists may contend that focusing our anger on white supremacists and the alt-right ignores political violence from antifa and other far-left groups. But, antifa is not tweeting its support for President Trump. Antifa is not co-opting Trump campaign slogans.
President Trump has repeatedly had opportunities to demonstrate his unequivocal commitment to the goodness and justice of America. He has an unlimited opportunity to use his Twitter bully-pulpit to attack the KKK, neo-nazis, white nationalists and the alt-right and condemn their hateful rhetoric and despicable violence. But instead, he vacillates, condemning evil-at- large while recognizing the “very fine” few within their ranks.
This is unacceptable, and we, especially conservatives and Republicans, must demand better.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities,
and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.”
I pray that we, the good people of our nation, retain the moral clarity to condemn hatred, oppression and violence, the courage to demand our elected leaders to do the same, and the hopefulness that America will be great when we, the good, triumph.