- First, I learned how long it’s been since I was truly impacted by hatred. The images, video, and articles covering Charlottesville horrified me. The pictures I saw Saturday morning of those angry racists in polo shirts holding torches were bad enough, but seeing that car slam into the crowd with bodies flying and then speeding into reverse sealed it for me. I’ve been mentally and emotionally consumed. It embarrasses me that it took this tragedy to wake me up again.
- I learned that witnessing those evil men dressed up in military gear, holding Nazi flags and chanting slurs, didn’t seem to have much of an impact on a significant portion of America. Evidently these neo-Nazi monsters whom our grandfathers fought a war against, these Klansmen who terrorize the South, were simply exercising their free speech. According to some folks, that’s really all this was about: free speech and a statue of Lee. (And if it helps to clarify one’s position, that’s straight from the mouths of the white supremacists.)
- I learned about the group that seems to have had the biggest impact in this national conversation: antifa. I have to admit, I didn’t know about them before. I didn’t know about their role in the Black Lives Matter movement–an unwelcome role, according to the organizers–and frankly, I didn’t know much about the violence that accompanied some BLM protests. I take responsibility for this; I don’t diversify my news sources enough.
- I learned that I have some pretty strong feelings about antifa. I disagree with their approach, their tactics, and their mindset. They are heavy-handed and obviously forceful and take it upon themselves to decide just who is allowed to speak or not. They’re authoritarian while claiming to reject authority. (I stole that line from an article.) And most importantly, they are setting the movement for peace and justice back. We should have rejected them a long time ago; instead we laughed when an antifa adherent punched Richard Spencer at the inauguration. How does this help us? I saw an article this week that instructed white people to stop invoking Dr. King. (?) Well, I’m going to. What would Dr. King say? Non-violence is the best means of achieving our goals. Period.
- I learned that some politicians seize national tragedy as a chance to claim that they’re totally against a cause, then return to making legislation that ultimately advances that cause.
- I learned that one particular politician doesn’t understand how to unite a country during a national tragedy, due to his equivocations and bloated ego. I learned that the Republicans in Congress get talking points to use every time that particular politician opens his mouth, to explain away his specious logic and inaccuracies. And yet again, I learned that just when I thought I couldn’t dislike that one particular equivocating, bloated politician more, he proved me wrong.
- I learned that Robert E. Lee was a kind man who never owned slaves–he just cared for his father’s slaves–and he was very conflicted about the Civil War. When the war was over, he worked tirelessly to reunite the South.
- I also learned that Robert E. Lee was a cruel slaveowner who separated families. During the war, he acted viciously toward black Union soldiers. He wrote that it was white men’s Christian duty to keep blacks enslaved and that they should only be emancipated through divine intervention.
- I learned about the timing of the erection of Confederate monuments, how most were erected during the establishment of Jim Crow laws and as a response to the Civil Rights Movement.
- I learned that a lot of white people think that because they’re fine with the Confederate monuments, everyone else (black people) should be too. I also learned that some black leaders like Andrew Young feel that taking down the monuments is a waste of time and energy which should be directed elsewhere.
- I learned that because I am a privileged white woman, I’m not allowed to think the Tina Fey sheet-caking sketch was funny or smart.
- I learned my favorite new political quote: “The favorite sport of liberals is destroying other liberals for not being liberal enough.”
- Finally, I learned that the best you can hope for in a Facebook “discussion” is openness and engagement, but you likely won’t get it…especially if you throw out an opening salvo to kick things off.
I mean, I learned a few other things: Cheese dip for dinner twice in one week is a bad idea. Always take the garbage out before you leave on a trip. Mow your leg hair before you get a pedicure, to create a less-ashamed, more-relaxed experience.
But that’s what was really on my mind.