This weekend’s “Unite the Right” rally that turned into a literal race riot in 2017 America, had it’s roots within the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to take down a statue of General Robert E. Lee, and the ensuing legal battle to preserve it.
It may be true that there are rational arguments for preserving negative legacies in order to remember the lessons history teaches us. However, “preserving history” in the abstract fails to attract large crowds. Symbols of history that represent ideas important to people can.
The question is… what did the statue represent, and more importantly what did it represent to those interested enough to protest and riot over it’s removal? Very few statue supporters will admit to any contribution at all of slavery, and I’m sure very few honestly believe in the peculiar practice per se. No, we’re told. General Lee wasn’t fighting for the preservation of slavery- he was fighting for the preservation of local control over the exercise of power by a more distant centralized authority, expanding it’s reach into the lives of what should be local concerns.
If that’s the case, then the city council’s decision to remove a statue the city owns from a city park they manage, when it potentially comes up against a decree by the state government relating to the preservation of certain monuments, it should be an easy side for supporters of localized control to take.
If that’s the case, then certainly the majority of attendees would not need to be bused in by Unite the Whi– I mean, Unite the Right organizers from out of state in order to tell residents of a Southern city what to do, a tactic utilized in Wisconsin by the Act 10 protesters in the North. If that’s the case, the counter-protesters wouldn’t have far outnumbered the rally itself.
Assuming that was the primary motivating factor of those protesters. You know, the ones waving flags that promote national socialism and hosting nationalism-promoting speakers.
I can’t speak for Charlottesville, and in fact, that’s the whole point. I do assume that most residents don’t want a public statue commemorating General Lee, any more than residents of Shanghai want a statue of Chairman Mao, or residents of Saint Petersburg want statues of Stalin or Lenin, or residents of Hamburg want a statue of Hitler.
Of course, there is a statue of Mao in Shanghai. There are statues of Stalin and Lenin still littering Russia. This is, of course, no indication of local preferences or the will of the people. It’s an indication of the Chinese Communists and how much input they actually allow from their citizens. It’s an indication of the Putin kleptocracy that pretends to hold “elections” when it’s convenient for international relations. It is not an effect of representative democracy.
So what are the local preferences of Charlottesville? Well, they lean heavily Democratic. They voted about 80% for Hillary Clinton, and the last time a Republican won any election there was the early 70s. About 20% of their population is black. I guess the burden of proof may fall on me to say that modern Democrats and black residents are less likely to support a confederate statue than Republicans, but I feel pretty confident assuming a correlation on this one.
What truly matters even more than racial makeup or political tendencies… is the result of actual elections producing those who make such decisions. After all, whether it’s America or the Confederacy, we are talking a form of representative democracy. The entire council voted overwhelmingly to remove it, and the mayor agreed.
So… the reasons to support the statue in the numbers we’ve seen cannot be primarily preservation of history in the abstract. It cannot logically be to preserve the cause of local control over centralized authority. But what about culture?
Personally I’ve spent more of my life in northern states than southern, though I spent five years in the great state of Texas, and supported the Texas Nationalist Movement. Perhaps being primarily a yank, I could miss some basics and be forgiven by southern hospitality for not knowing better. Bless my heart and whatnot.
However, I can confidently say I prefer southern culture to northern, having lived in both Texas and Wisconsin. But there’s a difference between southern culture and romanticizing the Confederacy.
Now, I don’t believe that everyone who flies the Confederate flag is a racist, or feels that connotation is deserved. However, protesting the removal of a General Lee monument in an event planned by groups like the KKK and the national socialist movement, hosting speakers like Richard Spencer and David Duke, while waving Nazi flags, black crosses, and giving out hail Hitler salutes while chanting things like “Jews will not replace us”, “Jews are Satan’s children”? Anyone not a racist would have left long before utterances of “white power” and ramming vehicles into counter-protesters began.
Many on “the right” have spent years being called racist, and it’s been primarily undeserved. Many have gotten fed up, having been called a racist anytime they criticized Obama, whether the attack was based on race or not. This has laid the groundwork for assuming that anytime they hear the word “racist”, it’s likely to be a false and dismissive term used to undermine a non-racist argument. But those who reflexively have been assuming a lack of actual racism at this rally, or reflexively feel the need to defend them, their cause, or equate them with their opponents as a first step are in denial. And no, calling out the rally as racist places me under no obligation to call out the shenanigans of groups like Antifa and Communist groups at the counter-protest in equal measure. I’ve spent time on them elsewhere, and sometimes it’s more important to focus on getting your own house in order.
This rally was full of actual racists, and the fact that there seems to be many on the internet unconvinced somehow should worry us. The automatic assumption of many is that this wasn’t a racist rally precisely because the media says it was should worry us. Although many big names in the conservative movement have spoken up loudly on this, the extent that some on the right remain silent on the alt-right will determine how “alternative” they really are. If ‘the right’ cannot call out actual racism, they lose all credibility when they deny unfounded accusations of racism levied against them.
We need to call things what they are, especially when these assholes are claiming to “heil” from the right. Hating commies isn’t enough to call ourselves allies, and we can’t let these inbred socialists hijack the conservative movement.
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