How white supremacy morphed into white 'victimization'
After the deadly, race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Va., I found the most memorable internet meme to be a news photo of torch-carrying white supremacists captioned: "Vanilla ISIS."
That's appropriate on several levels, most horrifically in the car that crashed into a crowd of peaceful counter-protestors, killing one and injuring at least 18 others.
Ramming vehicles into crowds of innocent people is a tactic we have come to associate with the latest phase of Islamic State terrorism. We have to concern ourselves not only with ISIS-trained terrorists but also the ISIS-inspired. We have to be wary of any ordinary person with poisonous ISIS ideas in his or her head to commit a calamity with nothing more extraordinary than an automobile.
Something very similar may have inspired the accused Charlottesville driver, identified by police as James Alex Fields, Jr., from Ohio. He sympathized with neo-Nazi views, people who know him have told reporters, and those misbegotten ideas may be all that it took for tragedy to result.
Words and ideas matter. That's why there was so much pressure on President Donald Trump to come up with a stronger statement than the tepid remarks he delivered by tweets and a formal statement on the day of the disaster.
Trump spoke up but, at first, didn't make it very easy for listeners to figure out whom he was talking about.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms," he said in his original statement Saturday, "this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides."
"On many sides?" Only one side had the casualties, as far as I could see.
Even some of his fellow Republican lawmakers stepped up to criticize Trump's early remarks as insufficient and vague. At times like this, we look to national leaders for voices of reason -- in the same way we called on President Barack Obama to speak out against similarly senseless violence, regardless of the color of the victims or perpetrators.
But for two days, Trump, despite his history of pointedly specific barbs thrown at other targets, ranging from the media to Rosie O'Donnell, was almost as tongue-tied about condemning white racism as he has been about criticizing Vladimir Putin.