Long ago are the days when Nazis lived in textbooks and on late night episodes of Lock-Up: Raw. We can't even look at a white man in a white polo shirt without questioning his political stance and affiliation.
The incidents in Charlottesville have been the painful wake-up call to America that white nationalism is alive and rising up. We've watched in horror as hundreds of torch-welding doctors, lawyers, public servants and parents shouted "White Lives Matter" while declaring their desire to ignite a new genocide. We watched a man take that genocide into his own hands, killing a woman and injuring 19 with his Dodge Charger.
And when we were just catching our breath — just barely able to move from grieving to anger — we looked to our government for condemnation.
Trump's Tuesday press conference demonstrated not only complacency in white supremacy, but also support of these acts. I sat in horror and disbelief as I watched the president of the United States condemn the "alt-left," a made-up term for those fighting for human rights and against white supremacy. I watched him talk over reporters, shout at people, and go completely off teleprompter. But really, were any of us surprised?
Former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke was one of the white supremacists who invaded Charlottesville last weekend, and he was proud of Trump’s statements. On Monday, when Trump briefly condemned white supremacy, David Duke took to Twitter to remind Trump that it was the "whites" who put him in office. He's not wrong, and it seems Trump took his reminder to heart and quickly changed his tune back to what he really believes.
In the last few days, Trump’s words about violence “on both sides” have caused a nationwide debate. Many have jumped to condemn Trump for his tolerance of Nazis, but many have also rushed back to the rhetoric that Black Lives Matter, Antifa, and those that stood up with them on Saturday are equally to blame for the violence that took place. This rhetoric has been on our Facebook feeds, in our phone conversations, and for those on the ground in Charlottesville, has led to a painful process of having to defend their decision to stand up to the Nazis and white supremacists who invaded their town with the express desire to murder the city’s marginalized citizens.
I'm here to empower you to call out your friends and family who are blindly following along and repeating the violence “on both sides” rhetoric.
So, let's break this down:
Trump doesn’t understand or care about the militaristic tactics of the alt-right
During the press conference, Trump spent a long time talking about building infrastructure and his manufacturing council. Discussing the incidents in Charlottesville was not his first priority. He did not make statements because he was alarmed or in grief. He waited until he was asked about it, and his response was on the fly and demonstrated his true feelings about the situation:
"What about the alt-left that came charging at — excuse me — What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? Let me ask you this: What about the fact that they came charging, that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do."
The "alt-left" is a counter statement to the "alt-right" which is self declared neo-Nazism. In a world that is constantly being captured digitally, we know exactly what happened, and we know that the first blow came Friday night when 400-500 Nazis attacked a group of 30 or so peaceful protesters with their tiki torches. That night, nearly everyone who was present to protest the Nazis was injured in some way. Many were maced and beaten. A woman in a wheelchair had gasoline thrown at her, and they threatened to light her on fire. A man was hit in the neck with a tiki torch, and later suffered a stroke from his injuries.
The Antifa, BLM, and other counter protesters who were present on Saturday came out to defend their neighbors, friends, and clergy members from a repeat of Friday night. They were met with assault rifles, flag poles that had been whittled into spears, and large quantities of mace, and at least a few tear gas canisters.
When James Fields’ car was attacked with sticks he was already flying down the narrow side street at 40 MPH. The sticks that hit his car were an attack of self-defense that never had a chance. Trump is now justifying murder and the injury of 19 people (including a 13-year-old girl) because a car was hit with sticks.
After Trump made these statements, reporters were disgusted, confused and had more questions than ever. Trump stopped to say in true schoolyard bully fashion, "I'm not finished yet, fake news."
He goes on in detail to repeat his sentiments and point out that the counter protesters were violent. And while some white supremacists went home with injuries, to say violence was inflicted on them isn’t really accurate. One group was playing offense (white supremacists), and one group was playing defense, and no matter what, the blame sits squarely with the group that invaded a city with an armed militia. The Nazis also didn’t suffer nearly the injuries that the counter-protesters did. Nobody died. Nobody left in a stretcher.
Trump doesn’t understand or care about race relations in our country.
After Trump finished blaming the citizens of Charlottesville for defending themselves, a reporter asked one of the most important questions:
"How concerned are you about race relations in America and do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?"
His response was to skirt the question all together.
"I think they’ve gotten better or the same...But I believe that the fact that I brought in, it will be soon, millions of jobs, you see where companies are moving back into our country. I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations."
I'm not even going to post the car companies he names off in an effort to boost himself up. Fact is, we know those jobs were created by the previous administration, and the numbers don't lie. Furthermore, his belief that more jobs is the secret key to solving the racial issues we have in our country shows he is oblivious to the racism, violence, and oppression that people of color are facing.
Trump thinks Nazis are fine people, and glorifying slavery is fine.
Another reporter tried to bring this back to the Nazis: "The neo-Nazis started this thing. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest —"
"Excuse me,” Trump aggressively interjected. “They didn’t put themselves down as neo-Nazis. And you had some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides."
When self-proclaimed Nazis during a Nazi rally are dismissed and called fine people... it's scary. It's horrifying. They DID put themselves down as neo-Nazis. They wore swastikas and shouted “Sieg Heil.” Why do we keep excusing Nazism for nicer terms, when the Nazis themselves are fine with calling each other Nazis?
"George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his statues? Are we going to take down — excuse me — are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him. Good. Are we going to take down the statue? Cause he was a major slave owner. Are we going to take down his statue? So you know what? It’s fine. You are changing history, you’re changing culture. You had people and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. O.K.? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly."
If you can get through the repeat sentences and elementary vocabulary, you'll feel a sinking feeling as you realize that our president thinks reminders of slavery are fine. These are sentiments shared by neo-Nazis. Do we care about a horrifying history over the respect and dignity of the American people? The commander in chief does. He still holds on to the idea this all was about a statue of Robert E. Lee and nothing more.
Trump doesn’t believe in facts.
"You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent."
The counter-protesters absolutely had a permit. Two in fact. Permits were issued for a peaceful counter protest in McGuffey Park and in Justice Park, both within a half mile area from the Unite the Right rally.
Furthermore, the counter protesters did not need a permit to protest the Unite the Right rally. Charlottesville spokeswoman Miriam I. Dickler has even attempted to shut down this misinformation in her recent interview with The Washington Post.
Trump Winery doesn’t mean he has any personal claim to Charlottesville.
"I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that’s been very badly hurt over the last couple of days. I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It’s in Charlottesville."
Trump Winery has claimed they actually have no affiliation with Donald Trump. At all. Eric Trump owns it, but since the election is not active in its operations.
And that was that. For a full transcript, complete with rambling and headache inducing self-affirmation, see it here.
What are we taking away besides what we already knew? That he's a lunatic capable of not even condemning the actions of self-proclaimed Nazis? We knew that.
What is the take-away? We need to stay alert. We are now being led by Nazi and white supremacist-sympathizing leaders at the highest level of office, and we need to ensure that we spend our time fighting and preventing another Holocaust or world war. I never thought, in my lifetime, that would be a reality. Heather Heyer's haunting statement found after her death remains on her Facebook page: "If you are not angry, you are not paying attention." We need to remember that Dre Harris was beaten brutally by a pack of Nazis who hated him because he is black. We need to remember that they came to Charlottesville with that very intention.
Jamie is the owner of Jamie Carle Photography and resides in Vancouver, WA. Her background was always in videography. She was an AV nerd in high school and president of her school video club. When college came, she decided to major in graphic design and put video second. She became pregnant — and knowing she'd be a single mother — she made the choice to put off school while she worked, scraped, and saved. One way she was able to stay creative and sane was photography. Through thousands of photos of her baby, she was able to keep doing something really special.
She found a new passion and moved from her own child to other children, which then expanded into all kinds of family portraiture. She was asked if she offered wedding services, and at the time was floored. So she became a second shooter for another photographer and learned some ins and outs of the wedding business. This has become her favorite thing to do — capture love and tell your story.
Jen Siomacco is the Creative Director of Catalyst Wedding Co. and was present at the counter-protests in Charlottesville.