Friday, August 25, 2017

Hank Sanders: Senate Sketches #1576: What President Trump did is so dangerous

  What President Trump did is so dangerous. It’s dangerous for me. It’s dangerous for you. More importantly, it’s dangerous for this country. Let me tell you why. But first let me remind you of what President Trump did.

  On August 11, hundreds of Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, white nationalist, etc., marched near the University of Virginia at Charlottesville. They held high flaming torches as they chanted Nazi slogans used by German Nazis during the 1930s and 40s. “Blood and Soil!” they yelled. “Jews will not replace us!” they yelled. They also shouted slogans such as “Heil Trump!” and “Make America Great Again.”

  On August 12, hundreds of these same people marched in Charlottesville, Virginia in support of white supremacy and the statue of Robert E. Lee. Let’s be clear: these white supremacists have a constitutional right to march. Hundreds of others marched in protest of the white supremacists. Let’s be clear again: they, too, have a constitutional right to march.

  At some point, 20-year-old James Fields, one of the white supremacists who idolized Hitler, as revealed on his Facebook page, left the march, got in his Dodge Charger, roared the engine and drove full force into those marching against the white supremacists. He then put the vehicle in reverse and backed over others. He killed Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old white woman. He also injured at least 19 others. It was a clear act of terrorism.

  President Trump refused to call this brutal killing an act of terrorism. He did not speak to Heather Heyer's untimely death. He simply said there was wrong “on both sides, on both side.” He equated those marching in the name of white supremacy with those marching against white supremacy. He equated those using terrorism to kill Heather Heyer and maim 19 others in the name of white supremacy with those peacefully protesting white supremacy. A few days later in Spain, a vehicle ran into a crowd killing and maiming people. A statement was issued within hours that this was a terrorist act. What the president did is so dangerous. Let me tell you why.

  White supremacy is deeply rooted in the United States of America. It began way before 1776 when the United States of America commenced becoming a country. It manifested itself in the annihilation of millions of Native Americans. It manifested itself in hundreds of years of African chattel slavery. It manifested itself in a bloody civil war that took the lives of 620,000 Americans. It manifested itself in apartheid (segregation) for a hundred years. It manifested itself in state-sanctioned terrorism with the public lynching of thousands of African Americans and nothing being done by local, state or federal government. It manifested itself in 120,000 American citizens of Japanese heritage being interned in concentration camps. White supremacy continues to manifest itself in ways too numerous to name.

  Because white supremacy is so deeply rooted and so powerful, it has taken all three branches of a powerful federal government to kind of hold it in check. However, most of the time these three branches of federal government were not simultaneously holding white supremacy in check. Sometimes it was one branch. Sometimes it was two branches. Sometimes it was no branches. Rarely did all three branches act simultaneously.

  The U.S. Presidency has always been the most important branch of government for keeping white supremacy in check. That’s because the president sets the tone and example for personal behavior. Millions respond to that tone and emulate that example. To my knowledge, only two of the previous 44 U.S. Presidents clearly enabled white supremacy: President Woodrow Wilson and President Calvin Coolidge. As a result, the Ku Klux Klan rose to its highest level of power in the history of this country with more than five million members. The lynching of African Americans became a national sport.

  President Trump’s words and actions in response to the death of Heather Heyer give license to white supremacists all over this country. It is a signal that white supremacy expressed in violent forms is equal to peaceful public protest against white supremacy. What President Trump did is extremely dangerous.

  When something is as destructive and deeply rooted in our culture as white supremacy, we can never fan the flames. But that’s exactly what President Trump did. When something is so destructive and deeply rooted, we must seize every opportunity to push back against it. Instead of President Trump pushing white supremacy back, he urged it forward. What President Trump did is very dangerous.

  To further understand the nature of white supremacy and its dimensions, let’s go back in time. In 1857, the United States Supreme Court described the essence of white supremacy in its Dred Scott decision. It said that black people, whether slave or free, had no rights which white people were bound to respect. It also said that black people were considered subhuman. In short, white supremacy is the belief that white people are superior to all other people, especially black people.

  When something is so potentially powerful as deep-rooted white supremacy, it cannot be cultivated. The Neo-Nazis, as illustrated in its media organ, The Daily Stormer, were very pleased with President Trump’s statements. President Trump, by his words and actions, has cultivated this powerful lurking force. No one knows how far an enhanced level of white supremacy will go. That’s why what President Trump did is so dangerous. That’s why each of us must hue and cry.

Epilogue - We have to cultivate good forces in life for them to grow. Bad forces are like weeds; they grow without cultivation. When we cultivate bad forces a little, they quickly outgrow the good forces that take a lot to cultivate. All of us must help pull wayward weeds from the Garden of Life.

  About the author: Hank Sanders represents Senate District 23 in the Alabama Legislature.

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