Had the white supremacist and neo-Nazi uprising occurred in a different Southern town, like Montgomery, Ala., or Columbus, Ga., people would be assuming “well, that’s the South.” But it occurred in the genteel town of Charlottesville, Va., and the town where change in shops is still given in two-dollar bills because Jefferson’s face is on the money. I still keep several in my wallet to remind me of Charlottesville during my first visit in the early 1960s.
Charlottesville is not just the South. It is America and this event of shame could have been found on Staten Island, N.Y., or in San Diego, Calif., and places in between.
We forget our real past in favor of the past sanitized in our youth in elementary and high school. We forget slavery of course. We forget the election of 1800, which set the bar for viciousness and at least journalistic violence if not much street violence. We forget the Civil War and the various attitudes towards it, North and South, which involved more than Southern slavery’s defense of the good old ways. We forget the Know Nothings, the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant outrages, the search for Bolsheviks after WWI and the search for Reds after WWII. We forget a great deal. Our current dismay with our government and president is nothing new and the Dear Leader we have given ourselves is only more loathsome because polite hypocrisy has finally given way to honest open criminality and vice.
As a more truthful view of our past might help us to cope with present and future dangers and temptations —like the emerging pandemic, which arouses not only justified measures of security but vicious attacks on those who have vested interests in suppressing the truth and in stoking up conspiracies with which to fool and disable genuine concern among the unlettered masses of our nation, something we also have forgotten — how uneducated our people really are, schooling not withstanding at all.
Charlottesville reminds us we are not in very good shape.