The scariest thing arising from this awful scene in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend is the fact that these kinds of clashes are likely to escalate and spread.
A group of white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville on Saturday for a protest where they were met with counter-protestors. Things escalated from there with the groups clashing and fighting, resulting in several injuries. Then later that afternoon, a car plowed into a group of counter-protestors. One woman was killed, and 19 others were injured.
Sides have been taken. And we are being drawn into a dangerous sludge of ideological intolerance. We have to ask ourselves, why is our country splintering into factions with so many prone to violence?
There is no question that the racist views of the white nationalists are immoral and un-American. Enslaving people was always wrong. And there is no excuse for perpetuating such a gravely immoral idea.
As Vice President Mike Pence stated: "We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms."
We must also note, however, that resorting to violence in an effort to silence racism is also immoral and un-American. Counter-protesting is wonderful and to be commended. Best the other side with logic, love, and solidarity. But when the urge to silence through violence supplants the noble protest, a dangerous line has been crossed.
As the antidote to the violence of Charlottesville, we must embrace two central ideas:
- All people are created equal.
- People must have the freedom to differ on ideas. Best your opponent in debate. But concede him the right to state his own views no matter how wrong you think he is.
These are principles on which our nation was founded and principles that we must fight to uphold in our country. If we begin to silence the viewpoints of others, then where do we draw the line? And who will determine what viewpoints are “permissible”?
The Declaration of Independence declared that all men are created equal. The First Amendment boldly protects robust, even hurtful, speech.
We were created equal and free. And we must protect both principles.
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