Americans demand leaders who provide clarity of purpose and who reaffirm our strong moral convictions. President Trump's statement regarding the tragedy in Charlottesville, Va., did neither. He demonstrated both incompetence and weakness regarding the values that matter most to Americans.
Protest and demonstration transformed into tragedy on Saturday as hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members stage what they described as a rally to "take America Back." They clashed with counter-protesters on the streets of Charlottesville. By the end, one civilian was dead and 19 others were injured. Two state police officers also died when their helicopter crashed in the outskirts of the city nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains and home to the University of Virginia.
When a vehicle is driven through a crowd in France, Trump knows to call it terrorism. But a car is driven into Americans and what? It's merely an accident? In his first speech about the events in Charlottesville, Trump condemned violence but failed to single out the white supremacists who brought it. He never came close to calling it the act of domestic terrorism that it was.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides," Trump said. He's trying to play both sides with that mealy-mouthed statement. He tried to create a false equivalence, when there is clear right and wrong. There is no gray area in America's ongoing struggle to protect freedom from its adversaries; whether they come in the form of Vladimir Putin or David Duke.
Trump kept quiet as David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, declared that the scene in Charlottesville is a "turning point" for a movement that aims to "fulfill the promises of Donald Trump."
Ronald Reagan had the guts and gravitas to call the Soviet Union "The Evil Empire" This was Trump's chance to call out and cast out the alt-right racists from amidst his core supporters. He didn't do it.
We all know that Trump does not care for elegant rhetoric. However, we all also know that he has no hesitation in identifying strengths and weakness among friends and adversaries. For better or worse, everyone knows where they stand in the eyes of the president.
Yet he missed this extremely important opportunity to confront domestic enemies of freedom, who want to make people of color second-class citizens again. The alt-right and White Nationalist movement invokes tradition and heritage when they embrace these un-American ideas.
Trump's initial comments were horrible, and it took him two days of political outrage and national disgust to say what needed to be said. Despite Trump's failure of leadership, America is still the shining city on the hill. Individuals that embrace our heritage of individual freedom and democracy are still welcome into this great nation.
While our country struggles with issues of race and sexism, we allow people to fight for what they believe in through words and civil protests. This is who we are. We will not allow such hateful groups to trample on these ideas to triumph in our country. When we see racists drive a car into a crowd, we will call them out for the evil and the terror that they represent.
Donavan Wilson is a writer based in Washington, D.C.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions.