Charlottesville. And beyond.

We’re an hour southwest of Charlottesville, and I was horrified but sadly not wholly surprised as events unfolded there in Emancipation — formerly Lee – Park yesterday.

A friend who has worked for the State Department in some pretty dicey locations abroad — a man still in his early 30s — sent this message: “Let there be no confusion: this was deliberate terrorism. My prayers with victims. Stay home.”

This is not just about Charlottesville, nor even mainly so. This is about all of us and our divided nation. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.

In the 24 hours since, two more messages, if you will — one of hope, one of warning — and a prayer.

The warning, from “The World of Evan Osnos” (New Yorker), in an essay on the Chinese dissident Xu Hongci: “What is the precise moment, in the life of a country, when tyranny takes hold? It rarely happens in the instant; it arrives like twilight, and at first, our eyes adjust.” (Like the proverbial frog dropped first into lukewarm water on the stove?)

To that, I would say, find and read “The Dark Valley,” a scholarly study of how fascism arose and World War II followed in the 1930s. We’re seeing something all too similar.

On a more hopeful note, yesterday NPR was talking with Volusia County, Fla., sheriff Mike Chitwood, who is requiring de-escalation training for his deputies following a rash of shootings. He’d built a  successful police department in Daytona Beach, he said, in part by requiring all   prospective officers to take a course in the history of racism — because, he said, “We are a racist country, have been from the start.” He had a good deal more to say — identifying the racism implicit in the theft of native American homelands and destruction of their culture as well as slavery, Jim Crow and all that has followed it.

Chitwood also served in the Philadelphia, Pa., police department. He spoke about getting retrained, as an officer, how not to be trigger happy. About how just a split second can tell you that a man is pulling out his wallet and not a gun. About how police involvement in communities doesn’t stop with visits to schools, but requires constant feet on the street.

Can’t find the newscast — and his reputation as “top cop” in Daytona may not hold up — but as events were unfolding in Charlottesville — and as that city’s police failed to de-escalate a situation that many  had foreseen —  it did offer a sliver of hope.

At least someone, somewhere, in a position of some authority is thinking: Thinking about how incidents like what happened yesterday do not arise out of thin air. Thinking about the long, thick and tangled legacy of racism in this country, and what we can and must do to dismantle it.

Last, this from NYC, from a friend who’s been a parishioner at  St. Clement’s, located in what used to be called Hell’s Kitchen,  for many years:

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together in mutual forbearance and respect …

Amen.

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9 thoughts on “Charlottesville. And beyond.”

  1. Unfortunately, bigotry will always be with us, but to allow it to flourish in the 21st century is unspeakable. It must be shamed back into a dark corner and not permit this evil to rally and murder in our streets. I don’t understand how this was allowed to blow up into this murderous storm of chaos, both on the streets of lovely Charlottesville and the campus of UVA. When will all this be enough to impeach this de facto ‘leader’ of the Alt Right?

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  2. Hi, Lisa:

    That was a very insightful and timely post, I thought. My feeling is that what happened last week in Charlottesville was just another demonstration of the power (for better or worse) of the Internet. The more extreme “alt-right” people and white supremacists have always been with us, but they were generally isolated. Now, they can rally as a group. Conversely, the people who oppose them can do the same thing, thus bringing various social issues to a head. These days, no matter what you believe, you can find others who share that belief.

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    1. Thanks so much. I agree that the Internet has kind of become the Tower of Babel (Babble, some say, but the point is … read on …), which in literature including the Bible of old stands for the people who were once united falling into disunity. We are at a crossroads, IMHO, comparable to what happened with the invention of the printing press and we are just beginning to see the HAZARDS that a wonderful invention can bring. The only solution I can see so far is to try to talk across the divide … like the Tower of Babel, if we are all speaking in our own language and not trying to learn other languages, we are kind of at a standstill.
      I appreciate your feedback. In his comment on this blog, Eli Fishpaw offers a practice he’s been following. I am going to try it.
      Best/ LT

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lisa,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about our history and culture. It is so true that we are a racist nation. We have never atoned for the sins of our fathers (Founding Fathers?) so continue to carry the guilt which, over centuries, sours and becomes putrified.

    I’m inclined to believe there are “forces” that see this condition and use it for their own purpose. “Divide and conquer” seems to be the strategy as we experience the twilight of which you speak. Can we wake up in time to become a better nation?

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  4. A truly wonderful article, Lisa.

    I sat transfixed before the TV screen wondering “Where was the National Guard?”

    During my generation’s stance against an unwinnable war, we were also working toward building a nation (if not a world) of clean air, water and soil while being under the authority of a national leader who would find himself eventually walking the plank of impeachment.

    On May 4th, 1970, students were peacefully protesting on the campus of a well-known university. The National Guard (mostly scared weekend troopers the same age as the college students) was called in. Four innocent students…children, really…died that day. Each gunned down by a nervous uniformed soldier.

    But from that came a new National Guard, trained on how to keep order so mistakes like Kent State would never happen again. But when a full-blown American Nazi Terrorist Rally assembled only a few days ago, where was the National Guard? Where were those who are trained to maintain peace, law and order?

    We all have questions about Charlottesville and why it went wrong. Most will never be answered. Mine is “Where were the National Guard?”

    Peace,
    Jon D’Amore

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  5. Our challenge is to penetrate the separation created by retreating to our own biases. To that end, I have been intermittently attending a local Baptist Church. This Church has a long local history attended by families descending from early settlers. Some of the theology I find problematic. I asked them question that highlight some of my concerns. They share their comfort with their position. Because of Charlottesville violence, I was moved to worship with these folks again. Asking one Baptist, what he thought about events in Charolottesville, he acknowledged that these were hate mongers and that they were marketing their hate to people like us. I am not sure how he identified “us”. However, I am a white southerner. In a worship setting, there is discussion about the aspiration to love your enemy. It is indeed harsh to characterize one as your enemy. We must look for the potential of making them your friend. However, I found his recognition of the vulnerability of his community however he defines it as hopeful. By inquiry, I did reveal some of the problematic beliefs that can cause tension. Finally, we have a substantive conversations about what divides us. As events unfold, I encourage us to interact in communities where you expect differences of opinion. Coming in as an individual is much less threatening than as a group. As a individual, you can control the demeanor of the inquiry. This is our time to sow the seeds of love by identifying the issues and nurturing an openness for communicating to find our common values to live in peace.

    Liked by 2 people

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