Crisis of leadership

by Western Environmental Law Center


We acknowledge our responsibility to stand in solidarity with all people and communities of good conscience who oppose hatred and discrimination. Heather Heyer’s murder at the hands of a white nationalist in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month was an unacceptable and avoidable tragedy. Silence on the issue of racial and religious hate groups contributes to the growing problem of organized hate and discrimination in America. As an organization that fights for justice, we feel compelled to make a statement unequivocally condemning these white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, as well as our political leaders who lack the courage to do the same.

In his remarks about Heyer’s murder and the broader events in Charlottesville, President Trump equated advocates of genocide with advocates of equality. Aside from the preposterous false equivalency, President Trump’s failure to forcefully denounce these hate groups and their rally echoes racist and bigoted comments he repeatedly made before and during his campaign and actions that he has taken as president. Trump’s failures, words and actions collectively create a culture of acceptance for an abhorrent ideology that 405,399 American soldiers died to eradicate in World War II and an ideology that underlies many of the darkest legacies of our own country’s history.

Our elected leaders’ failure to meet this issue head-on has allowed this racist poison to spread. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lacked the courage to directly name the president in their responses to his statements on Charlottesville, let alone take meaningful action to protect the people of Charlottesville and other communities from the danger these hate groups present. Our elected leaders must represent the principles and values of the American people and our constitution.

While the rise of organized racism and anti-Semitism is thorny and difficult to address, the decision to aggressively condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacist hate groups, and to stand up to a president who provides them aid and comfort, should be the easiest political decision our members of Congress ever make. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening.

The president may never be willing to stand up to neo-Nazis and white supremacists, but we expect our members of Congress to act as a check on his influence in our government and on our national discourse. Critically, our members of Congress must not only condemn President Trump by name in the strongest of terms for his statements when necessary, but also take meaningful action to prevent harm to any American or our society from odious hate and violence.

Members of Congress: You swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” If you can’t execute that duty, make way for someone who can.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.


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