It was difficult to dispassionately follow the news last weekend, as groups of neo-Nazis and counter-protesters clashed in Charlottesville, Virginia. One woman was murdered. Two police officers died in a terrible accident.
That much anger, hate and violence is hard to stomach, and it surely left Americans across the country seething as Nazi and Confederate sympathizers marched angrily through our public space.
In the wake of the violence, about 100 people locally turned out Sunday night at a vigil organized by Indivisible North Coast Oregon, sang protest songs and observed a moment of silence for the fallen.
In Charlottesville, dozens of major issues were at play, but there’s one fact that can hopefully find universal agreement: You can either be an American, or you can be a Nazi — you can’t be both. You cannot call for the overthrow of America’s core principles and still call yourself a patriot.
Photos of protesters waving American, Confederate and Nazi flags are incongruent. Those governments — their principles and their history — are opposites, enemies. They opposed each other, they warred against each other.
Removing flags from public spaces and tearing down statues doesn’t “erase history.” It just doesn’t hold that history in high regard and encourage its celebration.
Germany long ago unceremoniously destroyed Nazi-era monuments. That history certainly hasn’t been erased — most people are crystal clear on what the swastika stood for. And what it stood for is disturbingly undergoing a resurgence here in America.
There is no reason a patriotic American would tolerate or promote Nazi ideals. It’s the flag of a government that declared war on the United States, that killed hundreds of thousands of our brave soldiers and millions of other people. A government that waged world war.
We have freedom of speech in this country, but allowance should never be confused with acceptance.
As U.S. Sen. Orin Hatch, R-Utah, said Saturday, “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.” Every one of us should proudly endorse this view.
We must stand up for that most American (and Jeffersonian) of beliefs: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Wherever they arise, we must always reject the toxic lies of racism and the anti-American ideas and speech that were on display in Charlottesville.