Just over a week has passed since the world watched with horror and disgust as the reality of fascist terrorism ended the life of civil rights activist Heather Heyer and forever scarred the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. And in that week, a movement dismissed as harmless by too many for too long found a fervent ally in the American president.
As I watched the devastating events unfold, and how the so-called leader of the free world responded, my thoughts immediately turned to my daughter, to her future, and then to what this means for racialized communities everywhere.
And then I saw a chilling interview that made me wonder how Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka felt about her father’s choice to defend the white supremacists who stormed Charlottesville.
Vice News correspondent Elle Reeve interviewed one of the heavily armed neo-nazis – Christopher Cantwell – as he prepared to march. In the interview, Cantwell blasts Trump for not being racist enough because – as Cantwell puts it – he had given his daughter to a Jew.
“I don’t think you could feel about race like I do, and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl,” Cantwell tells Reeve, referring to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor.
With one sentence, Cantwell illustrated the indisputable link between misogyny, racism, xenophobia and fascism – a link so perfectly personified in Donald Trump, and one that may explain why Ivanka Trump has been so silent.
True to his character, her father spent the week resisting calls to condemn the fascists, instead repeatedly expressing solidarity for Cantwell’s cohorts.
There were “good people,” Trump insisted, among those who marched through Charlottesville brandishing military grade weapons, torches and nazi symbols chanting “white lives matter”, “Jews will not replace us,” and one of Hitler’s favourites, “blood and soil,” violently attacking counter protesters along the way. Under pressure, Trump would only condemn violence “on many sides.”
As for what the fascists were protesting – the removal of confederate statues celebrating another era’s fascists who sought to break up the United States in defense of slavery?
“We should cherish our history,” Trump proclaimed to reporters. “The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” he later tweeted.
His choice to react as he did was roundly applauded by today’s fascists and their supporters.
“He said he loves us all. Also refused to answer a question about white nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him,” one Trump supporter wrote in a comment on the Daily Stormer, an American neo-nazi and white supremacist web site.
It is all horrifying and disgusting. But none of us should be surprised.
Campaigning for the presidency Trump refused to distance himself from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, an honoured guest at the fascist rally last week. And as president, he has repeatedly fomented hate with his anti-immigrant, misogynistic, racist rants, dangerously normalizing tolerance of the intolerable.
There were Canadians among the white supremacists in Charlottesville. Two of them – Montreal’s Shawn Beauvais-MacDonald and Vincent Belanger-Mercure – have been outed after appearing in the Vice News documentary, enthusiastically shaking Cantwell’s hand, telling him they’d driven 12 hours to be there.
Not that they’d need to leave Canada to find murderous hate. We need only think back to the murder of Muslim worshippers in a Quebec City mosque in January, or to the growing number of hate crimes perpetrated against Muslims, Jews and racialized communities reported this year. Or look ahead to fascist Unite the Right rallies being planned in cities across Canada, starting with Vancouver this weekend, and in Toronto, the multicultural capital of the world, in September.
Donald Trump has failed the test of moral leadership, but we must not. Every local, regional and national labour leader, political leader, business and community leader has a responsibility to ensure that today’s fascists are denied the support they need to survive. We must all commit to challenging the racism that is still too prevalent in our homes, workplaces and communities. And we must all publicly and unconditionally condemn fascism, and those who refuse to condemn it.
Because what happened in Charlottesville can happen anywhere.