Alternative reality, and a better one. Monday, Aug. 14, President Trump speaks from the Oval Office:
"My fellow Americans: On Saturday, our country saw the tragic results of organized hatred. We saw hateful speech, speech consisting of the most vicious bigotry known to man, chanted by heavily-armed men deliberately instigating trouble. We also saw counter-protesters, some peaceful but many of them radical, fall for, or even welcome, the bigots' invitation to violence, and we saw violence erupt in skirmishes unacceptable in a civilized society – not from white supremacists, not from radical leftists, not from anybody.
"Then, horrendously, we saw one of the haters, one of the white supremacists, deliberately use his automobile as a weapon, injuring many and killing one lovely young lady, to whom I will pay tribute in a separate statement. Based on what the driver's supremacist colleagues had done throughout the weekend, his action was an entirely predictable manifestation of their evil intentions.
"In the United States, our system of justice does not assign collective guilt, nor should it. Even in non-legal discourse, we are correctly reluctant to assign collective guilt. But if ever, ever there were a time to hold a group collectively responsible, morally if not legally, for the sins of an individual, this is it. Every single white supremacist marching in that demonstration, chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans, especially those armed for combat, is morally responsible for deliberately creating the conditions for this act of domestic terrorism.
"I upset some people two days ago, when facts were still coming in, by saying that ‘many sides' were responsible for the violence. I was technically right, but my emphasis and the impression caused by it were both, unintentionally, off key. There will be plenty of time to investigate exactly who committed violence in Charlottesville, and plenty of other opportunities to condemn, and stop the illegal and violent activity, of groups such as ‘antifa' that riot and abuse rights and properties of others.
"There also should be another time for thoughtful, respectful debate on the existence and meanings of various ‘Confederate monuments' throughout the country.
"This is not the time for those discussions. This is the time to be clear: The white supremacists and their pathetic allies – whether neo-Nazis, so-called ‘alt-right,' or whatever they may call themselves – they were the instigators, provocateurs and, in one case, the executioners in Charlottesville.
"If you march, heavily-armed, carrying a torch, as part of a large mob chanting ‘Jews will not replace us,' and spewing other racist venom, then you are inciting terror. There is a right to free speech, but not to incite a violent riot.
"If you show up at a rally advertised for months quite specifically as a gathering of groups and leaders who advocate white supremacy, with posters bearing well-known Nazi symbols, then you are not merely an innocent participant wanting to salvage history or public art. Instead, you're part of a hateful group inviting a riot.
"And you are at fault. Full stop. No nuance needed.
"Hundreds of thousands of Americans were killed and wounded fighting Nazis in World War II. Six million Jews were slaughtered by Nazis, as were millions of Slavs. Nobody who gathers under their symbols is an American patriot. NOBODY.
"We Americans, the vast, overwhelming, super-majority of us, are better than this. (Parenthetically, we also should be better than to feed these beasts by physically confronting them. Let the appropriate civil authorities do that. Peaceful vigils in other places can better make your point. But let's set aside this as a lesser rebuke.) We are a people who believe in free speech so as to persuade, not intimidate. We are a nation that trusts a constitutional system affording us ample rights to make our cases respectfully in the public square, trusting that what matters and will ultimately prevail is the peaceful consent of the governed.
"We are Americans: Even if we may not always be perfect, we always strive for and usually achieve a society of decency and dignity where human rights and human life are cherished.
"As Americans, we condemn all bigots and those who traffic with them. As Americans, we aspire not to hate, but to be great. Let us all, as Americans from all decent political persuasions, humbly renew our civil bonds and compete without trying to destroy, and triumph in a way that invites everyone to share in the rewards.
"What happened in Charlottesville will be investigated, the perpetrators fairly tried, the guilty punished. But it is an incident that will never define us. We are good people, we Americans, and we will always be the light of the world.
Thank you, God bless you, and good night."
Quin Hillyer (@QuinHillyer) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a former associate editorial page editor for the Washington Examiner.
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