We have grown increasingly accustomed to viewing tragic scenes where a deranged ideologue used a truck or a car as a weapon of terrorism. On Saturday, it hit far closer to home.
The events that unfolded in Charlottesville—while involving only a small group’s intent on pushing well beyond the boundaries of peaceful protests—are symptomatic of a broader schism dividing the nation. Fueled by social media feeds that simply re-enforce one’s desired worldview, our society has grown increasingly polarized. More live at the extremes and they have only disdain for those who don’t share their beliefs.
We have seen the harmful ramifications of these shifts at the federal level. Long before the current administration set up shop, the capitol was well entrenched in a style of government characterized by obstructionism and arrogance. Cooperation and compromise are scarce commodities inside the Beltway. If they didn’t prefer that gridlock, voters at least tolerated it.
Violence stemming from these extreme views and hatemongers cannot be tolerated or justified. The death of a peaceful protestor who was among dozens in the path of a car allegedly driven intentionally into a crowd by a white supremacist protester is an alarm as to just how narrow the line is today between the exercise of free speech—even abhorrent speech—and acts of terrorism.
Local residents, like those around the globe, watched the horror in Charlottesville play out on their TV screens. Many later participated in rallies to decry those actions. Loudouners have responded to other such tragedies with similar demonstrations of unity. That is what is called for now: To protect the community we built from the dangers posed by those seeking to impose extreme views; to listen with an open mind to the concerns of those with whom we disagree; and to have compassion and cooperation guide our actions.
The battle against racism has been fought far longer than the war against terrorism, but we are losing both in the current Us-versus-Them environment.