As someone who’s held a soft spot for Charlottesville since a trip to Monticello as a child, and who may someday reside there, may I share a bit of my heart?
I know you had a rough day Saturday. The ugliness that erupted was seen live around the world for hours on end. You now face the prospect of being associated with hate for the foreseeable future. I grieve for you and with you.
Images of the day’s violent clashes, the horrific car crash, and the unabashed racism will be pounded over and over into the nation’s consciousness, at least through the next election cycle. Further, any attempts to squash free speech in this country will be couched with the excuse “We don’t want another Charlottesville.” Charlottesville will be a noun, not a name. And not a good one.
Ask Waco what it’s like to become a symbol instead of a city. The Branch Davidian inferno took place in 1993. It took years, a good Baylor football team and the great “Fixer-Uppers” Chip and Joanna Gaines to refocus the nation on Waco’s charms instead of its tragedy.
What Defines You
However, as the church shooting in Charleston showed us, sometimes its not the awful that ends up defining you, but how you handle the awful. Blacks and whites in Charleston came together, hand-in-hand, arm-in-arm, heart-to-heart. They prayed and sang together.
The people of Charleston offered comfort to each other and forgiveness to the twisted young man who, like Saturday’s thugs, let hate hold dominion in his heart. Charleston chose love. Today we can say Dylann Roof did not define Charleston. Jesus Christ did.
Jesus implored us to love our neighbor, love our enemies, love one another. His example allows us no bitterness. It doesn’t allow us sharp tweets and pointed fingers. Turns out you can’t point fingers if your hands are lifted to God. He calls on us to follow Him rather than find common cause with the one who came to town looking to “kill, steal and destroy.”
President Trump has been stung for the sin of condemning hate “on many sides.” Your mayor Michael Signer could barely wait for the blood to dry before blaming Trump for the violence. I beg you, Charlottesville, don’t fall into that demonic trap. Pretending “hate” is under the sole ownership of one group is a dangerous lie, even as it pertains to Saturday’s events. (See John Zmirak and Jason Jones’ Stream column After Charlottesville on that.) Pointing out a rat doesn’t mean you’re denying a snake’s a snake.
Ask yourself who gains by peddling such a lie? Who loses when innocents who condemn hate and racism are then deliberately associated with that one racist group?
It’s as inevitable as the Blue Ridge Mountains are old that the racist acts of a militant few will be pinned on anyone to the left of Ashley Judd. In fact, as Michael Brown points out, it’s already happening. I don’t want to see a city with such a distinct history get played.
The Suspicious Stand-Down
Charlottesville’s most famous resident wrote some of the most beautiful and powerful words in our nation’s history: “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.”
I don’t know how anybody can set foot in your city without Jefferson’s words echoing in their heads. Yet it’s not hard to imagine that his statue is soon to be toppled, his precious Monticello torched, as police again are told to stand down.
Critics both left and right are wondering why on earth police not only held back, but ignored past protocols to keep the KKK walled off from counter-protesters. When bused-in counter-protesters include the violent Antifa anarchists and the virulent Black Lives Matter — groups that could bring destruction to a bake sale — such “stand down” orders are beyond negligent. They border on sedition.
Again, ask yourself: “Who benefits?” When I ask that question I can’t help but hear the Clinton operative caught on tape last year boasting about how they instigated violence at Trump rallies to create the meme his supporters were violent. Two cops ended up injured in Chicago. Saturday, two cops were killed. Your governor Terry McAuliffe, another Clinton operative, the man in charge of Virginia’s state troopers, quickly pointed the finger at Trump.
Who benefited from the stand down order? Who benefits now from the chaos?
Your mayor boasts that Charlottesville is the “Capital of the Resistance.” Some advertisement. He, too, had direct control of law enforcement. He, too, has deep ties to the Podesta machine. And as we said, he, too, raced out to blame Trump. History teaches us to be suspicious of such conveniences.
Jefferson once said, “The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” I saw blood. I did not see much in the way of liberty. But I do see a form of “tyranny over the mind of man.”
Will We Be Safe to Speak?
Which gets to what worries me about the mayor’s boasts and actions. The rolling hills of Albemarle County have been calling my wife and I for several years now. And if God sends us there, the history, trees and streams, wineries and winding roads, will provide welcome. But will the mayor? Will the town, this “Capital of the Resistance”?
I am a Christian and a conservative — you know, what the mayor’s breed would call a racist or Deplorable. Will I be free to speak in public? Could I even walk the streets in a cap from the nearby Trump Winery? If I open a business, does your mayor’s openness to Anitifa and aligned hate groups mean I can expect my store front to be smashed and looted?
Still, I have hope. Charlottesville has been there 255 years. Mayors and governors come and go. Your hills have seen countless bitter passions cede to the passage of time. Should you take up the challenge to love, a single day’s spasm of rage will play no major role moving forward.
We’ll be able to count ourselves blessed citizens of Old Dominion. To marvel where “Nature spread so rich a mantel under the eye” of Jefferson and God. Where we can freely and in fellowship with our neighbor enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.