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No words for a chilling picture PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 16 August 2017 16:51

It was an image so utterly chilling that it might have been spawned by a nightmare, and in a way it was.
    A young man, face set as though in thrall of some powerful force, marched at the head of a group with his left hand gripping a torch and his right hand raised in a perfect Nazi salute, as were the hands of the men around him.
    It was a photograph that could have been made 80 years ago in Germany when Nazi youth paraded in a show of allegiance to their fuhrer, Adolph Hitler, but it wasn’t. The picture was taken Friday night, August 11, 2017, in the United States, and was published Monday in the New York Times.
    The photo was of a neo-Nazi parade through the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville. The march was a prelude to the white nationalist rally on Saturday at which a civil rights advocate was killed and many others injured by a Nazi sympathizer who drove his car into a crowd in an act of terrorism.
    A photo of neo-Nazis rendering Hitler salutes while marching in America should be disturbing to every American, but who cannot empathize especially with the emotions it must engender in those who experienced World War II?
    The citizen soldiers who served in that war, some with us as our most venerated veterans and others gone but remembered for standing up for their country in its most perilous moments, fought against the armies of the man idolized by the Charlottesville nationalists for writing the “blood and soil” messages they now chant in support of white supremacy, anti-Semitism and militant nationalism.
    That history of service and sacrifice in defense of American ideals of freedom and equality should have weighed heavily on President Donald Trump when he responded Saturday to the domestic terrorism in Virginia. Yet there was no sign in his statement of any understanding of the affront and threat by the Charlottesville nationalist rally to the values that generations of Americans have defended.
    The president’s statement mentioned a display of “violence on many sides, on many sides,” but there was no condemnation, not even criticism, of those who fomented the violence by flaunting Nazi symbols and mouthing anti-Semitic chants.
    The Charlottesville events called for the president to assert the moral leadership his office demands by reminding the country and the world of the ideals America represents and condemning those who attack them.
    That did not happen. The president who is famous for his vicious, hair-trigger Twitter attacks on anyone who criticizes him could not muster the will to even point a finger at the white nationalists espousing values that would be more at home in a Nazi regime than in the American democracy.
    It is hard not to give credence to the critics who blamed Trump’s reticence on a desire to placate the white supremacist groups that supported his election. One of the internet voices of those groups, the website The Daily Stormer (named after a virulently racist German tabloid called The Stormtrooper), praised Trump’s response as “really, really good. God bless him.”
    Criticism, rather than praise, rained down on the president’s statement from members of Congress of both parties. This included two eloquently cutting sentences from Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah: “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
    In a damage control effort two days after the terror attack, following meetings with advisers, the president said in remarks at the White House that racism is evil and the KKK, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are “criminals and thugs.”
    The tardy words were welcome, but probably not as memorable as what he did not say in the aftermath of the Charlottesville terror.
    And certainly they won’t be remembered for as long as will that haunting photograph of the modern equivalent of Hitler disciples marching in Virginia.

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