America’s national embarrassment

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  • Political disgrace: the cover image of this weekend’s issue of The Economist

    Political disgrace: the cover image of this weekend’s issue of The Economist

Many in America and around the world are in a state of shock over the dreadful event in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Members of extremist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, stormed into that city with cries of blatant racism, claiming that non-whites and people who do not share their evil objectives have no right to exist on American soil. It was as though the ghost of the Civil War, with hate-filled menace, had broken from the grave to have another go at dominance based on colour or ethnicity.

For many Americans, who believe in justice and freedom, they felt like it was some type of Twilight Zone event that would end by turning a switch. Sadly it was stark reality, and before the horror was over, three people were dead and many injured. Apart from that, most of the citizens of Charlottesville, a beautiful city I have visited, were left deeply shaken and bewildered that in the year 2017, hate-filled extremist groups could take to the streets with such vengeance.

However, what rocked much of America and the world, was to watch America’s Commander in Chief squirm and try to wiggle his way out of immediately condemning what was an act of pure hatred by extremist groups promoting Nazism and threatening people who objected to their racism tactics that run counter to what America stands for. It is more than alarming to hear President Trump placing blame on the violence on both sides when the evidence showed those hate-filled people entering Charlottesville with intent to inflict harm and cause mayhem. There was nothing peaceful or decent in describing people outside of their twisted ideology as unfit to live on American soil, and vowing to uproot the very principles of justice and freedom.

Perhaps the most alarming factor is that few would have anticipated that America would have a president who has been judged as not being on board with the sentiments of the “I have a dream” speech, delivered decades ago by the late Martin Luther King.

Dr King outlined what could be America’s future, if opportunity and true justice for all of its citizens became reality. Back then, there were vicious racist groups who totally objected to having non-whites or others outside of their doctrine treated as regular citizens.

Significant progress has been made since then, with the US becoming a much more diverse country with contributions being made by those of all races and religions. But beneath the surface hate groups continued to mobilise to a degree where today America has a serious problem with groups openly promoting Nazi slogans that have no place in a decent society.

What has infuriated so many Americans and also people around the world, is that what happened in Charlottesville was seen by livestreaming globally, and yet the president was reluctant to condemn outright those who invaded that city for the single purpose of causing mayhem over the planned removal of a statue of General Lee, who led Confederate forces during the Civil War to topple the American Government under President Abraham Lincoln.

Many today see those statues as reminders of a period when injustice was upheld by the south. History can never be changed, but symbols that might give the impression that the Civil War in America is not quite over, could send wrong signals to groups that feel freedom and justice is not for all Americans.

There is even talk at the moment to remove carvings of Confederate Generals on Stone Mountain in Atlanta. Again history cannot be changed, but there is merit in reviewing certain symbols, especially of people who actually fought to preserve slavery and to deny basic human rights to African-Americans. Many thousands paid with their lives in a war between Americans, over the issue of democratic rights for every human being. The war ended but the battle for true justice in America continues.

Observers in America and around the world have described the reaction of President Trump to what happened in Virginia as nothing short of a political disgrace.

He had the opportunity to raise the banner of American values by standing firm against all racist groups who threaten peace and freedom. He elected to do a political dance with words that left many feeling that the president fell terribly short in putting America’s great values first.

Among world reaction was a British newspaper which published a photo of the White House covered by a KKK hood. There were even further calls to cancel any planned visit to Britain by President Trump.

Surely senior Republicans must be fuming behind closed doors over what is certainly an international embarrassment. The major question is how far America is willing to let this behaviour from the White House continue.

Bermuda has always had a superb relationship with America and many are concerned about recent events. Around the world people are wondering what will happen next in an atmosphere where the leader of the most powerful nation on earth is yet to settle into a presidential mode that will restore confidence in the Oval Office.

Unless there is a change, America could be in for more of what happened in Charlottesville. No right thinking American wants that.

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Published Aug 19, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 18, 2017 at 8:52 pm)

America’s national embarrassment

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