Domestic terror by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, deserves the strongest possible condemnation from across the nation and the world. The march and violence over the weekend that resulted in three deaths and dozens of injuries should be denounced from all corners of our nation.
In Bloomington Sunday night, a demonstration at the Monroe County Courthouse showed strong solidarity for the counter-protesters who did not want to sit idly by and allow racist speech and actions to go unchallenged. Our community can feel a particular kinship with Charlottesville in that both are relatively small liberal cities dominated by major universities.
Bloomington has another reason to sit up and take special notice. Matthew Heimbach was one of the promoters of the “Unite the Right” rally that spawned all the violence in Charlottesville. He’s a one-time Bloomington resident who leads the white nationalist Traditionalist Workers Party. While he lived here, he co-founded the Traditionalist Youth Network. He now lives in Paoli in Orange County and has been profiled by many state media outlets, including The Herald-Times.
He was prominent in organizing the “Unite the Right” groups that marched in Charlottesville representing hatred of others who aren’t like them — white, straight, Christian. The groups and their members represent hatred of blacks and other people of color; of Jews, Muslims and other non-Christian faith groups; of gays, lesbians and others who don’t adhere to the haters’ gender norms.
They do not represent all whites, all straights, all Christians — far from it. They are a small subset of racists who badly mistake the idea that fairness for all somehow means less fairness for them. It’s all a ruse to promote and support white supremacy, no matter how they want to package their cause.
Some on the right, former Indiana governor and current Vice President Mike Pence for one, have wondered aloud why the media has been so critical of President Trump’s initial statements that talked of divisions and violence “on all sides,” suggesting the criticism should be more directly focused on the people who incited violence in Charlottesville.
Their concern is a weak attempt at misdirection. They are missing the fact that the president chose to avoid upsetting a portion of his base of political supporters rather than clearly articulate that he opposes the evils of racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and the other abhorrent beliefs driving the groups of “Unite the Right.”
They must have missed the way alt-right leaders saw support in Trump’s initial comments, which they carried through to claiming success for a day of violence, bloodshed and death. Here’s what Heimbach said Saturday in a quote for the New York Times:
“We achieved all of our objectives,” he said. “We showed that our movement is not just online, but growing physically. We asserted ourselves as the voice of white America. We had zero vehicles damaged, all our people accounted for, and moved a large amount of men and materials in and out of the area. I think we did an incredibly impressive job.”
That’s simply disgusting. There was nothing impressive about what happened in Charlottesville, except for one possible thing. Now more people know the extent of hatred represented by Heimbach and those who think like him.
The president and all political leaders must denounce them as clearly and directly as possible, as must we all. To do anything less is to suggest there is more than one legitimate side in the fight against bigotry and hate. There is not.