ICYMI: Topeka Capital-Journal Editorial Board Commends Yoder for Response to Events in Charlottesville
Editorial: The right response to Charlottesville
By The Topeka Capital-Journal Editorial Board
August 15, 2017 | To view online, click here.
The president of the United States has a responsibility to act as a lucid and calm moral guide in times of crisis. This is particularly important when the crisis involves social and political hatred in the country — when every American should be reminded that we’re citizens under the same flag who deserve equal dignity regardless of our race or religion.
After all, unity may be the most historically indispensable concept in the U.S. — our national motto is e pluribus unum (“out of many, one”) and the first sentence of the preamble to our Constitution contains the words “in Order to form a more perfect union.”
The grisly events in Charlottesville last weekend demanded a response that would reaffirm these principles. There were neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members marching through the city to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. When hundreds of counterprotesters confronted them, violent clashes ensued and dozens of people were injured. In the most horrifying incident of the day, a 20-year-old white nationalist named James Alex Fields smashed through a dense crowd of protesters in his car, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
After the violence in Charlottesville had been broadcast on the news and social media all Saturday morning, President Trump made a formal statement: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.” When reporters asked him to comment on the hideous white supremacy on display in Charlottesville — as well as the white nationalist members of the “alt-right” who have expressed support for him — he fell silent and left the room.
Instead of explicitly denouncing the neo-Nazis and other white supremacists at the rally — one of whom had just attempted to murder as many people as possible — Trump decided to lecture the “many sides” that were involved. Would he care to outline which “sides” were equally culpable in his mind? After receiving a torrent of well-deserved criticism from all ends of the political spectrum, Trump relented and attacked the “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
But he had already missed his opportunity to unite the country against these repugnant groups with an immediate, forceful and explicit rejection of their revolting ideology. And on Tuesday, Trump reiterated what he said last weekend: “I thought what took place was a horrible moment for the country, but there are two sides to a story.”
Unlike Trump, most members of the Kansas congressional delegation didn’t equivocate about the issue of white supremacy. Almost all of them used words like “racism,” “bigotry” and “white supremacy” in their denunciations of the violence. While Sen. Pat Roberts said the “hatred &ignorance displayed by the violent &pathetic group in #charlottesville is unacceptable,” he also thought Trump’s first statement “pretty well covered it with a broad stroke.” He’s wrong. When it comes to neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, “pretty well covered it” isn’t good enough.
Rep. Kevin Yoder, on the other hand, distinguished himself with his criticism of Trump’s feeble response to the horrors in Charlottesville: “Any time that we don’t speak strongly in opposition to bigotry, racism and hatred, I think we’re giving oxygen and breathing room to let these groups flourish.” He also admonished Americans to “speak clearly and directly: white supremacy is an evil ideology that has no place in this world.”
If only Trump would have responded like that.
Members of The Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board are Zach Ahrens, Matt Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Laura Burton, Garry Cushinberry, Mike Hall, Jessica Lucas, Veronica Padilla and John Stauffer.