My Reflection on Charlottesville

As someone who is simultaneously fascinated and horrified by war – as a history major, if it were offered, my concentration would be in war studies – what happened in Charlottesville is devastating and terrifying.
One man, James Alex Fields Jr., decided to escalate an already tense situation by giving into his impulse for violence. A woman, Heather Heyer, paid the greatest price for his actions, and several others were injured. Beyond that, thousands upon thousands of people have been traumatized. 
A video was released by VICE that shows quite a bit of what happened during the protest, as well as what was said:

The only person to blame for the death of Heather Heyer is the man who has been charged with her murder. That was sheer impulsive violence, and it wasn’t premeditated. That’s what it means to be charged with second degree murder – that’s what the killer was charged with.

Yes, there are people on the Alt Right celebrating and claiming gratitude – if you listen carefully to the comments that Cantwell makes in the video, he expresses a desire for an ethno-homeland. An ethnic nation. A white nation. A nation based on ethnicity. A desire for land.

In all the ethnic conflicts that have occurred across the globe, there’s a common inciting factor – a desire for land. For territory. Cantwell expresses this desire, and out of everything in this video, that sentiment is the one that terrifies me the most.

Because he sees other ethnic groups, other races, as posing a great threat to what he views as his own ethnic group. He is basically saying the US is being overrun by non-white people, and now white people have nowhere to stand – no home to call their own.

This is terrifying because people will listen to this. People will buy this. He’s selling a false promise of a freedom from fear, but there are desperate people – there are smart people – who will take the lines he is spewing and take them seriously. They will view him as a leader, someone to take their cues from, and this is so incredibly dangerous I don’t even know how to explain how dangerous it is.

Because Cantwell has taken the USA – a diverse melting pot (that’s what we’re supposed to be, with mixed races, mixed ethnic groups, mixed religions, mixed classes – strength in difference) and he’s divided it into two camps. He has taken the us. vs. them mentality that already existed (alt-left vs alt-right) and twisted it into an ethnic conflict  – white nationalists vs. every other race and ethnic group in existence. He has taken a political split and turned it into a racial and ethnic split.

This is how all wars start. 

Someone claims that a specific group of people has taken away their homeland and are actively working to keep that homeland from them. It doesn’t matter if there is truth to the statement or not – if enough people believe something, it becomes the truth they live. The truth they fight for. They truth they are willing to die for. The truth they are willing to kill for.

When people can no longer see the humanity in a person, they take up arms. They fight. They kill. They die. This event may be the beginning of one of the worst ethnic conflicts the world has ever seen – it has the potential to be far, far worse than the civil war ever was. When the civil war ended and Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces, President Lincoln issued a pardon. Because people are more than the causes they claim to represent, more than their political viewpoints, more than their ethnicity and more than their race. People are human. 

It is when humanity is forgotten, wars begin. It is when the other becomes the source of all the problems that war becomes normal. Our country has been sitting on the verge of an ethnic war for decades. This incident may have been the one that pushed our countrymen to their breaking point – fights will break out. Violence will become even more normalized than it is now. And it will become almost impossible to acknowledge someone’s humanity without being accused of being either a Communist or a Nazi. That’s the stage we’ve reached.

I won’t engage in this kind of violence against my fellow humans. I won’t stand for the incitement of violence against other people because their views are radically opposed to my own. I won’t condone murder. I won’t condone violence for the sake of pursuing a political or ethnic agenda.

I worship a pantheon of war gods, and I absolutely refuse to endorse this war. The only violence I’ll ever condone is those actions undertaken in self-defense or defense of family/friends from an imminent threat. If someone is attacking me physically, I will fight back. But I will never give someone the advantage of forcing me to punch first.

Even if I hate everything a person stands for, hate the ideology they support and the rhetoric they spew, I will not condone violence against them. If they commit a crime, then let them be judged by the law. Vigilante justice isn’t justice. It’s just another crime. Another act of cruelty.

In the coming days – and they are coming, anyone with even an ounce of sense can see that – I will do my best to provide a refuge. A safe harbor for all who need it. Regardless of your viewpoints, I will do what I can to be compassionate and kind. Hatred solves nothing – it does nothing but create more fear. And fear perpetuates violence in a way nothing else can. I don’t care who you are – if you have committed no crime, if you have done no harm – I will provide a space for you.

Because in all this insanity, I refuse to bow down to it. I refuse to be drawn into a war I didn’t ask for, a war I don’t support, a war that can and will destroy the country and people I love. So, if all you can spew is hatred for things you don’t understand or agree with, try on an empathetic pair of shoes and work on seeing it from the other person’s eyes.

In the end, we’re all human. That’s all we ever really have. I won’t let anyone steal my humanity from me. Now, everyone has to make a choice. You either have to choose a side and let yourself be riddled with hatred… or you can choose to step back and refuse to endorse violent conflict that will lead to war. Unless we step back and take a breath, gather our humanity and turn it into our shield… the place we are headed is all-out war. There is no getting around that.


2 thoughts on “My Reflection on Charlottesville

  1. A sobering and well considered assessment of this escalating situation. I fear another Civil War on American soil is possible, but hope fervently that it does not happen.

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