It is difficult to describe the emotional terrain of my heart right now. I moved to Charlottesville, VA only a year ago. It felt like home. I was greeted with a diverse variety of people, mostly peaceable and happy, many had dreams, influenced by the University atmosphere and Thomas Jefferson’s vision, many are well educated and somewhat opinionated. It is fertile ground for positive growth in all areas; it invited me in, it was hopeful and upbeat, promising, a great place for my family.
As I was traveling internationally the last few weeks, I saw quite the opposite as events happening in my hometown were flooding the national and international news. Faces inflamed with hate, carrying torches, driven by mob mentality, stories of mass violence that might have been written 160 years ago during the US Civil War, were coming from my town, published for all to see. Embers of hate that should have long gone out were fueled and fanned into frenzied flames. In the world eye, the small college town of Charlottesville was made synonymous with civil unrest and hatred. How did this happen?
Was this staged, was it done on purpose? The faces of the mobsters on the news were not those of the people found on the streets of Charlottesville. Was it the intention of the leaders of Charlottesville to transform our town into a showplace of racial controversy and bigotry? If so, they did a great job; if not so then they must be ready to carefully examine the factors that allowed this to happen. The statue of a respected confederate general that has stood in Charlottesville for generations, a simple monument to local history, not even remotely offensive to the vast majority of the local citizens, was somehow allowed to be turned overnight into a symbol of subjection and racial supremacy. Who allowed this to happen?
Last month a handful of people dressed up in sheets and pointy hats walked through the historic downtown mall of Charlottesville to protest of the plans to remove the statue. Instead of the pointing fingers, chuckles, and a few angry shouts that I would think this kind of a “protest” deserves, it was met with a large-scale mobilization of police force and crowd control that of itself is worthy of media attention. If only a few people with the embers of hate burning in their heart can gain such a stranglehold on a community by walking down a street, this only serves as an open invitation to embolden those who still carry these embers of hatred to fan the embers into a flame. Those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it. Listen to this counsel.
With such an attractive invitation, hate groups came from afar in greater numbers, murder in their heart, the fuel was ignited, blood has been spilt. It will be hard to clean up the ashes. My heart is saddened. Why did we have to sacrifice our Charlottesville of all places at this time to such an awful cause. Please, let us learn from our mistakes.
After the mobsters boarded their buses and left Charlottesville, from all exterior appearances, it is still the vibrant community it was before they came. Let us strive to keep it that way, along with all the great communities we have built across our country. Time to read up on history…