Commentary: Charlottesville, and what crawled out from under the rock

By John Krull 

INDIANAPOLIS – At least we can stop pretending now.

The ugly and tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, involving a “protest” by white supremacist thugs and the accompanying abdication of moral leadership by President Donald Trump have lifted the rock. What’s crawled out from beneath is both hideous and dangerous, but we Americans never were going to be able to deal with it unless we first started acknowledging that it was there.

John Krull, publisher,

That hate and bigotry exist and are part of us.

There is a reason that racial prejudice has been called America’s original sin. It’s the same reason Abraham Lincoln warned us in his second inaugural address that the 250 years the people of this land tolerated the enslavement of other human beings might have to be paid for with another 250 years of suffering.

The scales of justice never are balanced without cost.

In Charlottesville, we can see just how high that cost can be. Three innocent people are dead and many others are injured because some deluded fools thought it a good idea to “protest” the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a man they consider a hero.

There is a legend that stresses Lee’s gallantry and guile, but it is a legend that overlooks a couple of basic facts. The first is that Lee considered slavery a moral wrong and the second is that, as a West Point-educated officer of the U.S. military, he took an oath to defend this nation.

Yet he took up arms against the country he had sworn to defend and led troops in the service of a wretched cause during the bloodiest war in this nation’s history.

Normally, such actions would not be called heroic.

No, they would be called treason.

The motivations of thuggish protestors in Charlottesville have touched off a debate about what they should be called – whether designating them as “alt-right” or “white nationalists” rather than neo-Nazis or white supremacists bestows upon them a dignity and legitimacy they do not merit.

My counsel would be to focus less on the nomenclature and more on the hate that seeks to cloak itself. Evil and meanness always seek new ways to obscure and conceal themselves. Often, those ways are found in wrapping one’s self in the flag or in service of a supposed cause.

So often, the people who proclaim themselves patriots and vow they love this country can’t seem to stand so many people who live here, people who are our neighbors and fellow citizens.

That’s like claiming to love God while despising God’s creations.

The indignation directed at President Trump for refusing to condemn this evil and meanness is just, but who really expected him to do otherwise?

It’s impossible to know if the president is any more bigoted than the rest of us because the evidence strongly suggests that he believes in no cause, moral or immoral, greater than Donald Trump. He cannot abandon the bigots now because, as his poll numbers plummet and he engages in silly quarrels with supposed allies like Mitch McConnell and Jeff Sessions, he cannot afford to cast away friends. He will betray the bigots, though, when he no longer needs them or they have become too heavy for him to bear, because he is loyal only to himself.

Thus, he bears moral responsibility for the horror in Virginia.

Trump has flirted with these evil forces for years, seeming to think that hatred and bigotry were like water in a tap, something he could turn on and off as it suited him. Instead, he’s burst the pipes – and now the sewage is flowing through the streets.

America’s streets won’t be washed clean easily.

The haters and the bigots say President Trump’s rise emboldened them. KKK leader David Duke has proclaimed that the bigots will “fulfill the promises of Trump.”

Doubtless, they will try.

The revulsion Charlottesville has produced, though, demonstrates that most Americans – Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative – do believe in the principles that define this country.

They believe all human beings, not just some, have rights.

They believe in law.

And they believe in justice.

The bloodshed in Virginia and the president’s cowering response to it have stripped away all pretense.

Now we know what the fight is about.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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One Response to Commentary: Charlottesville, and what crawled out from under the rock

  1. “Thus, he bears moral responsibility for the horror in Virginia.”

    If we are to be fair, Barack Obama bears responsibility for Dallas. Justice and placing blame goes both ways.