Politics

Violent Clashes, Deaths in Charlottesville Demonstrate America is Moving Backwards

“…good people can disagree on this matter without having to beat the hell out of each other in Charlottesville.”

Growing up as a Yankee in New Jersey, I never was a fan of the Rebel Flag or the Confederacy in general.  My earliest memories of the concept of the Civil War go all the way back to thinking it was actually called the “Silver War” in the same way a young snot-nosed kid tells another on the playground to “Stop coppering me!”.  For as long as I can remember, the north was good and the south royally screwed things up – but that things got better and we moved forward for the good of the nation.  Call it a society’s evolution.

A few years passed.  I was subjected to the mini-series Andersonville and the movie Glory before I learned about the Civil War in grade school.  Union soldiers withered away and died by the thousands at Confederate war prisons. Blacks and whites fought side by side for abolition.  Being the history buff that he was, my dad had a Civil War chess board that I liked to play with even before I knew how the pieces should move across its surface.  I always chose the blue guys who fought to “free the slaves”.

The most shocking thing I can recall learning in grade school was that the war wasn’t really fought for the soul purpose of “freeing the slaves” in the first place.  Honest Abe Lincoln’s real concern at its outset was to preserve the Union and the south wanted the Federal government to back off.  Abolition wasn’t really part of the equation until two years after the rebellion began.  The southern rebellion began in 1861 at Fort Sumter, yet the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t put into effect until 1863. “How could this be?”, I thought.  History shows us that the measure was taken to crush the economy of the rebelling states, and is in some ways similar to how we see UN sanctions placed on rogue nations nowadays.  It was more of a strategic move than a moral one.

There are so many nuances involved in how and why the battles were fought, how they were won, and how things somehow got patched up over time – but at the end of the day, white men died alongside black men – in some cases at the hands of their own family members – to bring about the end of a war in which emancipation eventually became synonymous with northern victory.  The strategic maneuver that “freeing the slaves” began as eventually became a moral cause.

Sure, more death and destruction occurs all over the world on a daily basis than what just happened in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday – but this is the United States and the year is 2017.  WWII ended on foreign soil in 1945 but Nazi flags flew in Charlottesville.

When I moved to Georgia in 2010, I didn’t know what to expect.  The people in the northern Atlanta suburbs were just like the ones in Jersey, except maybe they were a little happier about getting more bang for their buck as far as living standards go.  On the other hand, my car insurance premiums did get more expensive and I quickly learned that people drive with the same rage and reckless abandon in Metro-Atlanta as they do up in Jersey.

When I moved into the more rural southern side of town, the most important thing I learned was that not all Southerners equate the Confederate Flag with slavery, pre-civil rights oppression of blacks, or being able to call a dark-skinned man “boy”.  In fact – in seven years here, I haven’t associated with a single one of those types.  The vast majority of them will say Dixie is all about sweet tea, going to church, driving a truck, southern hospitality and manners, country music, guns to protect themselves, and being proud to not be a city slicker.

The more Constitutionalist southerners view it as a symbol of pride reminiscent of a time their ancestors stood up to a Federal government encroaching on states’ rights.  Black southerners wearing a Dixie belt buckle or hanging the flag in their house do it out of regional pride and to remember their ancestors, who fought for civil rights and the progress they made.

If you’re a northerner proudly repping the Rebel flag, I really don’t know how or why I’d defend you – but many southerners have valid points for why the Dixie Flag and Confederate monuments are important to their regional identity and heritage.  At the same time, many Americans have a solid point regarding the fact that treason was committed and building memorials in honor of its commission is logic standing on faulty ground.  In other words, good people can disagree on this matter without having to beat the hell out of each other in Charlottesville.

Ignorance owned the day and it’s just the latest event to have the rest of us questioning if we as a people are going forwards or backwards in this country.

Days like yesterday make me wonder what some wiser and more advanced civilization might be thinking if they happened to be looking down at us from orbit.  What would some higher power think about a despicable faction of Nazi flag waving miscreants brawling with the communist alliance of Antifa lemmings and Black Lives Matter drones? How much urine does one side have to toss and how many cars must the other side ram for the line to be crossed where we all stop pointing the finger at each other and just condemn all of it?

Sure, more death and destruction occurs all over the world on a daily basis than what just happened in Charlottesville, Virginia yesterday – but this is the United States and the year is 2017.  WWII ended on foreign soil in 1945 but Nazi flags flew in Charlottesville. The Soviet Union fell in another hemisphere in 1991, yet the hammer and sickle was waved proudly by American citizens in Charlottesville.  The American Civil War came to its conclusion in 1865, yet two sides battled over a monument of Robert E. Lee in a public space named Emancipation park over 150 years later.  Ignorance owned the day and it’s just the latest event to have the rest of us questioning if we as a people are going forwards or backwards in this country.

Whether you agree with Confederate monuments in the south being taken down or you don’t, the people protesting it yesterday had every right to be there. Not only was it their 1st Amendment right, but they also were granted a permit to legally demonstrate.  With that said, if you came to that march clad in armor then you came expecting a fight.  Your first amendment gives you the right to fly your swastikas and confederate flags with vitriol – but in doing so, you subject yourself to equally hateful and stupid people attack you.

If you were chanting communist slogans while throwing bottles of piss and pepper spray at “the enemy” then you’re no better than the neo-Nazis.  Frankly, I’m not seeing enough universal condemnation of everyone involved.  I’m seeing a lot of “White Nationalist”, “Alt-Right”, and “White Supremacist” headlines, but I’m not seeing much focus on the anarchists, Antifa members, and Black Lives Matter disciples that played an equally inexcusable role in creating the conditions that lead to the death of one woman and two Virginia State Police Officers who were up in the sky trying to coordinate police tasked with quelling the mayhem happening on the ground.

I’ve always had a deep sense of patriotism and a gratefulness for my good fortune to be born in a nation that sets the pace for the rest of the world.  I still feel that way about my country, but obviously Charlottesville represents a falling off from that pace we’ve set.  This national embarrassment didn’t happen overnight either.  We’ve allowed identity politics to become our national obsession.

On both sides, there are hateful people showing up to places like Charlottesville for trouble.  On both sides, there are people commenting that they’re ok with the violence so long as those on the receiving end were “the other team”.  There are people that pay no mind to any of this who float along obliviously.  And then there are the politicians and media outlets profiting from the dissonance created. What do we, the people gain from any of this?  If you ask this cop, we’re going backwards.

T.B. Lefever

T.B. Lefever is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and active police officer in the Metro-Atlanta area. Throughout his career, Lefever has served as a SWAT Hostage Negotiator, a member of the Crime Suppression Unit, a School Resource Officer, and a Uniformed Patrol Officer. T.B. is also a certified Field Training Officer. He has a BA in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University. Follow T.B. on Twitter @tblefever.

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