Opinion: As We Mourn, We Must Continue Forward

The impromptu memorial to Heather Heyer at the location of the 8/12 domestic terror attack.
(Unmodified photo by Bob Mical used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/RT9dL0)

We as a nation hold dearest our principles and the unity that has bound peoples of diverging races, religions, and creeds. We exult in our Four Freedoms: Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

However, yet another cowardly act of violence threatens to dislodge those freedoms. Disbelief, outrage, and grief grip the country following the tragic and senseless murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia this past week.

Our nation is in disbelief as hordes of ignorant, hate-spewing people flock to racial hotspots bearing the Confederate and Nazi banners.

Our nation is in disbelief as pictures appear on the front-pages of newspapers that are eerily reminiscent of those taken in the 1960s of torch-bearing lynch mobs.

Our nation is in disbelief that 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement and 150 years after emancipation, we remain a country in seemingly perpetual atonement without hope of absolution for the sin of slavery.

Our nation is outraged that differences of opinion are met with unbridled rancor, intolerance, and deaf ears.

Our nation is outraged that such a socially aware generation as millennials has produced the likes of Dylann Roof and James Fields Jr., both of whom have conflagrated the flames of hatred and division that threaten the strength and fray the moral fabric of this “shining city on a hill.”

Our nation is outraged at the tepid, tone-deaf response of the president, who ought to have offered a swifter, more unequivocal and unambiguous condemnation of the unfolding pandemonium and violence. And this is a good time to digress briefly. Cast aside aspersions on the president that unfairly portray him as a zealous bigot comparable with the likes of Strom Thurmond, George Wallace and more recently Trent Lott.

Thurmond, a Democratic Senator from South Carolina, infamously staged the longest Senate filibuster ever of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. In his inaugural address, Democratic Alabama Governor George Wallace promised “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” and blocked entry to the University of Alabama to two African-American students.

Trent Lott, the Republican Senate Majority Leader from Mississippi in the early 2000s, unapologetically extolled Thurmond and his ill-fated “States’ Rights Democratic Party” Presidential run and was later forced to resign.

It is inappropriate and dangerous to equate the president’s unwise remarks, which blamed both sides for the violence, with racist ideology that fuels Richard Spencer and David Duke, today’s Strom Thurmond and George Wallace.

Enmeshed in a morass of disunity, we must try to tune out the deafening demagoguery of pundits and politicians and focus on healing, for this nations grieves.

Our nation grieves the far too premature passing of Heyer, a hardworking paralegal and waitress who died for her (and our) core principles—liberty, justice, and equality before the law.

She understood that it was not enough to be a passive media consumer or to share or retweet the occasional article on Facebook or Twitter. “Change does not roll on the wheels of inevitability,” “Be the change you want to see in the world,” “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” These are the rallying cries of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi, and Heather Heyer lived them.

Let us not allow these calls to action to be relegated to the ignominy and meaninglessness of banal platitudes. These are the guideposts with which we should and must strive toward building a better way forward. Jealously guard the bastions of liberty. Remain vigilant of iniquities so that we may continue to be worthy of the republic for which so many have shed blood.

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