A community’s love in the aftermath of hate
Participants hold signs at a Solidarity with Charlottesville vigil at the Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro on Sunday.

A community’s love in the aftermath of hate

Haunting images of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia — and the violence that followed against counterprotestors — bring into sharp focus a markedly different vision of the United States. How much blame can be assigned to the campaign and victory of Donald Trump? And how should we as a community respond?

Susie Webster-Toleno: I can't stop thinking about the scenes from Charlottesville. I'm so angry that the ugliness on display is still a thing, and yet feel so helpless about it.

I hear (“well-meaning”) white liberals expressing ire but also saying, “but, of course, free speech.” I simply can't imagine how that sounds to people of color and Muslim and Jewish folks and LGBTQI-etc. friends and neighbors.

Yes, free speech.

But I have the ability to emphasize that point precisely because my entire being is not under threat by the troglodytes some deign to call “alt-right” but by those we all need to acknowledge as dangerous white supremacists who deal death either directly or by lighting a fire under already-dangerous crackpots.

It seems obvious to me that racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and all of the other fear-based hatreds I can think of never really went away, but were just buried under a level of civility that some might call political correctness.

Yes, I do believe that our current president is responsible (along with those who work with him) for making people with horrifyingly anti-Christian values feel safe and empowered in doing and saying horrifyingly anti-Christian things so often couched in evangelical Christian language and culture. But it's becoming painfully obvious that those attitudes were there before he uncovered them.

Even if it were possible to shove that genie back in the bottle, I don't know what good it would do.

Part of me wishes to find a way to force those ideas and the people who hold them back under the rocks they crawled out from. Unfortunately, part of me realizes that that's not what victory would look like.

Somehow, some way - though it seems pretty freaking impossible at the moment - the hateful ideologies need to be eradicated, not just silenced.

Somehow, the people who hold them need to be converted to a new way that includes humility, respect, love, generosity of spirit.

But how? And when? And how do we (as an entire nation) keep vulnerable people safe in their communities in the meantime?

My prayers join those who are fighting the good fight (and loving the good love, I guess you'd say) in the always-shifting epicenter of this rather cosmic battle between good and evil, because that's what I think we're seeing.

* * *

Cal Glover-Wessel: I keep seeing it over and over again. White supremacists bully and harass anti-racist protesters. A white supremacist killed one person and injured 19 more.

I'm shaken. I'm crying. Until details come out, it's entirely possible one of those people could be someone I know.

I'm hoping this sinks in for everyone. How many times do we have to say it: this is what happens when you give white supremacists a platform and defend their rhetoric simply as “opinions” (as Bill Maher said about this year's protests in Berkeley, Calif.). This is what happens when you condemn the people that actively fight against them.

Remember when white nationalist Richard Spencer got punched and everyone was appalled that someone used violence to silence hate speech, claiming that it was an attack on our constitutional right to free speech? Spencer went unchecked. This rally was his. The deaths that resulted, the people hurt, are on him.

I hope that sinks in. I hope the reality of who we're dealing with has become crystal clear to everyone. White supremacists don't just talk. This isn't about opinions or free speech. They're murderers - they talk about and plan eradication and genocide.

This is not an isolated incident. This has happened before in this country and others, and unless we stop condemning the people fighting white supremacists and start doing it ourselves, it's going to keep happening.

And to be clear to everyone: I am in no way stating that the only solution for dealing with white supremacists is to meet them with violence, though violence is one solution.

Take away their platform, take away their voice, overwhelm them with condemnation. Support the people you know who are meeting them head on. Stop talking down to minorities when they tell you what they're experiencing, then start listening more.

And when the time comes that you're face to face with racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia, don't just sit by and listen and say, “Well, it's their right.”

Stop being quiet. Stop being nice.

* * *

Laura Sibilia: This is humanity vs. inhumanity. Period. There are not two sides. There is no gray.

* * *

Jane DeNeefe: I wish Thomas Jefferson could be forced to watch everything happening in Charlottesville, with his eyes held open like in A Clockwork Orange.

He helped create this monster, and he knew it.

* * *

Allyson Wendt: All I keep thinking is that it is no longer enough to be for tolerance - we must be actively and visibly against hatred.

My son Blake found me reading the news this morning, and I had to explain what Nazis are, why they were marching in a city south of here, and why we must never, ever let hatred like theirs go unchallenged.

I explained that Great-Grandad fought in the war and liberated concentration camps, that Great-Nana was a nurse in the war, and that we could not ever let that happen again.

I told him that Mama was scared that there were people out there who thought only white people deserve to live, that a lot of her friends were more in danger in our country than they should be.

I also told him that, should things get really bad, all would be welcome in our house, and we would stand up for them and protect them as well as we could.

With that, here's an invitation.

If you are in danger, come to my house. We'll find a place.

* * *

Bethany Kriger Thies: It's incredibly easy for me, a white woman living in liberal Brattleboro, to express disdain and heartbreak over the despicable events in Charlottesville.

Today, I'm thinking of all the people who have to make a bold act of courage to denounce hate and bigotry. These voices are the voices to emulate and admire.

Most of us here in our bubble of love and tolerance are preaching to the choir. I am thankful for the oppressed people who constantly do the heavy lifting for the rest of us.

* * *

Mary Barber: I always ponder things, and I put great weight on analogies to help me. So here is one regarding the Confederate flag and Confederate statues.

Let's say that we beat ISIS in Iraq, completely ending their reign of terror. And, then, when the Iraqi flag flies, there are Iraqis who want to fly the ISIS flag, many who were either part of ISIS or had parents who were.

I wonder how Americans and Iraqis, particularly those who fought against it, would react. After all, they could say it was their “history.”

* * *

Shanta Lee Gander: Some among us use free speech as a blunt instrument and as an excuse to be careless with whatever platform is being used to cause more turmoil in the world.

Some would say that everyone deserves to air their side or platform, but in the words of my dear friend, not everyone should have a side or platform.

There was and is nothing ever “free” about speech, whether you exercise your right to print something on a T-shirt that is shown in shared space or you are within a group wishing to have a gathering to create space within a very public space for a certain shared viewpoint or agenda.

There is always a price to be paid, especially in the form of human tragedy, in actions encouraged or provoked by words or the spaces created around them, and/or irreversible results.

Thus, speech is not free and should stop being used as a free-for-all vehicle for all the crazy shit we are seeing.

* * *

Tim Johnson Arsenault: I am sad that 45 has not spoken out to denounce these acts, nor has he distanced himself from those people of such ilk.

* * *

Judy Berger Tharp: These white supremacists have to be victims of abduction or secretly drugged. What happened to make them act off their gourds?

Are there really so many ignorant, maladjusted people so close to where normal people live? If I lived in Charlottesville, I wouldn't think twice about moving right away!

This is so scary.

* * *

Liza King: A white nationalist at the far-right rally apparently intentionally plowed into a group of peaceful protesters (including clergy) in Charlottesville, killing one woman and injuring at least 19 others, some critically.

White nationalism is a major terrorist threat - if not the major terrorist threat - in this nation, and Donald Trump refuses to condemn these terrorists.

My heart goes out to the brave people who were protesting against these extremists.

Let's call it what it is: a terrorist act.

* * *

Samirah Evans: I have never been much into politics. I'm just a person who cares about my country, the world we live in, and its inhabitants.

I am angry because it is clear that the state of affairs of the United States is antithetical to what the current leader of our country claimed it was going to be under his helm.

What's worse is that it is actually exactly as he claimed - apparently, where we are is what he envisioned. I'm not so gullible as to not realize what our country and the world was up against with this new leader and his cabinet, but only shy of 205 days? I just didn't imagine that it would be this bad.

I'm not despondent. I will hold out hope and will pray that each of us who truly cares about our country will not become the mirror of evil.

I am a Buddhist and have been for over 30 years. Though I am not a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer, and I have witnessed that power in my life and the lives of fellow Buddhists. However, if you believe in the dignity of all life and common decency within yourself and the human race - no matter how, whether, or to whom you pray, now is the time to use your beliefs to unite, not just for your sake but for the sake of those around you.

We cannot live in this world alone. We need one another no matter the differences in our religion, ethnicity, whom you love, or how you identify.

We all can make a difference for the better from where we stand at this very moment by finding the common thread in our hearts. We all can use courage and wisdom to guide us.

We are the leaders. We must stand up for ourselves and the vulnerable. And we must not give up! We owe it to ourselves and to our world and its future.

And if you are angry like me, please use that anger constructively to create value not destruction. No one wins with such action. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo!

* * *

Diana Lischer-Goodband: “When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit to the glories of love.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

* * *

Rick Hege: I have no words, to be honest.

* * *

Bill Austin: Trump is incapable of providing leadership, as he has no courage; healing, as he has no heart; or solutions, as he has no brain.

* * *

Fran Lynggaard Hansen: I live abroad and have many Canadian and British friends with whom I work.

Perhaps Americans are unaware that those countries don't have issues with race to the degree that the U.S. does. When my friends visit the U.S., they prepare their children for the “looks,” “unkind words,” and generally aggressive way white people treat people of color in our country.

That tells me the depths to which we hang on to our racism.

We don't deal with it. We condone it as a part of our living history.

* * *

Deborah Lazar: On my refrigerator I have a quote: “Laugher is the shortest distance between two people.” Let's find a way to focus our energy on connecting in a good way to one another. Find the joy.

* * *

Robin Rieske: We have to keep showing up and not become numb to these horrible acts. The alt-right are filled with hate, they dehumanize people, they threaten people. Tiki torches are still weapons and are symbolic of a mob mentality.

These people are dangerous, and they are domestic terrorists.

Trump should be impeached for his failure to call out the white supremacists and the violence and hatred they promote. Do these people really not understand the implications of Nazi flags? This is not about freedom of speech. This is about promotion of hate, promotion of discrimination, and threats to civilized democracy.

Charlottesville, Brattleboro stands with you!

* * *

Nancy Braus: Donald Trump and his white supremacist minions have unleashed forces in this country that have always been present but that are now emboldened in a way which should terrify us all.

Trump's absurd and meaningless statement regarding armed Nazis marching openly in our streets being equally culpable with the weaponless resistance was to be expected, as the Nazis and white-power crowd are his ardent supporters.

No matter who we are, whether we are directly threatened by these violent people, we must speak out for justice, nonviolence, an end to this move toward fascism, and love.

* * *

Ellen Kaye: It's time to think outside the box when dealing with racists coming to town.

Here's the proposal: Instead of a counter demonstration, which has the unintended consequence of giving momentum to them, let's mount a campaign to get all local businesses to close their doors when the neo-Nazis come to town (for example, in Boston, where they are planning a similar rally on Aug. 19).

We publicize the businesses that close and encourage people to spend their dollars there before and after the closure, therefore not costing them any income. The businesses that choose to serve the fascists will be subject to a boycott campaign.

In this way, we can starve the white supremacists, denying them the attention and traction they are seeking, while still standing in solidarity with all of the targets of their hateful rhetoric and deeds.

Rallying in a ghost town can really take the wind out of one's sails. And will give the media less interesting material to cover.

* * *

Peter Simoneaux: While I understand the desire to simply ignore the provocateurs - and, yes, I get that attention is their oxygen - it reeks of retreat and intimidation.

I prefer the confrontational approach.

I give no quarter to racism and racial and ethnic hatred. None whatsoever.

* * *

Barbara Holliday: Just so you know, the Trump administration and the white supremacy movement is all interrelated.

On Twitter, Sputnik (Putin's vehicle) just berated the U.S. for “lecturing” to other nations while this travesty was happening in our own country.

Stephen Miller was besties with Nazi Richard Spencer at Duke. Nazi Spencer was married to a Putin propagandist. The Mercers - Trump's top financial backers - are in Vermont.

* * *

Beverly Greer Langeveld: So many different emotions attacked me when I saw the images in Charlottesville: horror, sorrow, anger, fear.

It took all my energy to keep out hatred by remembering Martin Luther King Jr.'s words, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

* * *

Michelle Simpson: Yup, the hate was always there. Trump made it fashionable again. An entire war was fought against Nazis, and the whole world was involved because it was evil and wrong. None of us should sit idly by while our country's leadership emboldens anti-American and anti-democratic ideals.

By the way, I would defend anyone's rights to assemble, even around something despicable. Everyone is entitled to their anger and opinions.

But once you are violent and destructive, you are a domestic terrorist.

Whether you're with the Occupy Movement or the Nazis, if you can't manage your anger, then go home and figure out a better way to express yourself.

* * *

Daniel Kasnitz: Get used to life under the white terrorist rule of Putin/Bannon.

These lustful killers are not fringe. They are in charge of all three branches of government and the military here in the Fascist Plutocracy of Oilmerika, as well as dominating eastern Europe.

Notice how of the “many sides,” only one side is murdering innocent people.

* * *

Brandie Starr: I was not in Brattleboro on Sunday to stand in vigil for those who suffered in Charlottesville, or in opposition to those who have sought - and will likely continue to seek - to bring messages of hate and fear to people of color, to those of differing sexualities, to women, and to many more.

I hold my heart open, sending love and strength and absorbing the hate and fear that so many are carrying. I also press my feet firmly into the ground, standing in defiance.

The hate and intention of the alt-right and the white nationalist movement is not welcome here. Not in Vermont, not in Brattleboro. Not in the United States. And we will stand strong and fight against this every step of the way, because we fight for love, and love is always the stronger force.

I believe I am strong enough to hold both love and hate in me without it causing destruction of my soul. I am open to giving pure love and light and absorbing as much pain from others as possible. But I fully denounce - in pure anger, hate, love, and light - all actions by groups that seek to bring harm and to marginalize the majority of Americans and Earth's citizens.

I will do so by word - or by sword, if necessary.

* * *

Michael Nethercott: The Daily Stormer - an American neo-Nazi website - gave a big thumbs up to Trump's comments on the events in Charlottesville. And why wouldn't they be pleased? The U.S. president nimbly avoided any mention of white supremacists in his speech.

What a courageous leader.

* * *

Thomas Nelson: I don't want these things to be true. I want to be able to say that we don't do these things in America. That here, we are evolved.

* * *

John Mlynick: This thought process needs to be exposed! Brought into the open - no matter how ugly and hurtful.

Thank you, Mr. Trump! Even though you are silent, you clearly approve of the violence the white supremacists invoked this weekend. Especially because you are silent, Mr. Trump.

With it exposed, we can address this thought process and exile it to history, where it can coexist with the likes of Nazism.

What is heartbreaking are the individual lives broken and affected in this process. I am so sorry - you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Now, let's get to work and relegate this thought process to history!

* * *

Daniel Kinoy: My father died in 2014 and, though I miss him terribly, I am glad he did not live to see the president of the United States fail to condemn Nazi murder in an American city. He did not survive the Battle of the Bulge and nine months as a Jewish G.I. in a German death camp to see this kind of Nazism happening with a complicit White House.

This soulless orange fascist must be removed.

* * *

Tim Johnson Arsenault: I reject hate in any form, and I find the laying of blame only perpetuates that hate, the us against them.

“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

* * *

Bob Stannard: So do we all remember when Trump shouted from the rooftops chastising Obama for never using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorists”?

Why is it now that Trump has such difficulty saying the words “white supremacist terrorists”?

That's what we have in America today, and thanks to Trump, they are feeling more empowered than ever.

Even slime dog David Duke took the opportunity to remind Trump that it was “white America who put [him] in the presidency.”

Shame on all of these hypocrites and racist terrorists.

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