The national spotlight focused on Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend after a white supremacist rally descended into chaos. Various white nationalist hate groups, including neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and their smaller sub-factions, rallied at a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general.
A counter-protest at the same location included groups from a different side of the political spectrum, who have also been very guilty of hateful rhetoric and violence, albeit rarely called out for it. Black Lives Matter and Antifa were on scene protesting the protesters.
There has been very little media coverage of the actual events, and there are many unanswered questions. It has been reported by eyewitnesses (not in the mainstream media) that during the first protest of the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan there were police in riot gear, military vehicles etc. These police separated the Nazis and the KKK into smaller groups and sections. However, once the first group was already separated, the police began to leave, despite the fact that the other group of rabble-rousers was now approaching the first group. And as anyone could have predicted, chaos ensued, and there was violence on both sides.
The mainstream media reported on the violence of the KKK and Nazis, which culminated with a car ramming in to a crowd, killing one and injuring many others.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg at the New York Times tweeted the following: “The hard left seemed as hate-filled as the Alt-Right. I saw club wielding Antifa beating white nationalists being led out of the park.” This naturally was not reported anywhere in the mainstream media, but that is for another discussion.
Members of the NYPD stated that there was no way that these two groups should have been anywhere near each other. It also appears that the police may have been given a stand-down order to allow for a scuffle to ensue. Some suggest that this was because it was well-known that any violence at such a rally would be blamed on President Trump and, to a larger extent, all Republicans, and all white people.
Be that as it may, in this event there were two hate groups fighting each other, and it escalated to the point where one individual took his car and killed an innocent person and injured many others.
It is a sad story of divisiveness and hatred that manifested in a brawl with injuries and a death. The main focus of the president’s press conferences was attempting to unify the country. He condemned hatred and bigotry, and spoke of restoring the “sacred bonds of loyalty and trust” between the citizens of this nation. “We must love each other, respect each other… Ideally we have to love each other,” he said.
Naturally, the media found issue with the president’s statement, which then became the main news story trumping the news of the actual horrific tragedy. An honest spectator would observe that in the media’s eyes Obama could do no wrong, and Trump can do no right.
You might be asking: This a sad story, but what does it have to do with me? The answer is it has everything to with us. The Gemara (Yevamos 63a) says that when events happen around the world, they happen for Yisrael. Hashem is showing us what it looks like when members of one nation fight with each other. It looks horrible, and it ends with death. The Gemara tells us that we were exiled because of hatred and divisiveness, the same core issue that caused the tragedies of last weekend. Yes, we still suffer from the same root issue that manifested itself in the ugly disaster witnessed by the entire nation last week.
Whether there was a stand-down order given to the police or not, and whether there were political masterminds orchestrating the events of last weekend or not, we know that there was indeed a conductor who runs every aspect of the world, and even controls what news stories are brought to the top of everyone’s conversation.
The bottom line is what took place in Charlottesville demonstrated to us what sinas chinam looks like. Two hateful groups attacked each other, not because of any personal offenses one committed against the other, but because of their principled beliefs of deep hatred for the other.
May we be zoche to learn from this episode and listen to the message of unity that Hashem has put in the heart of the president (“lev sarim u’melachim b’yad Hashem – the hearts of officials and kings are in Hashem’s hand”). May we restore the sacred bonds of loyalty and trust between the members of our nation, respect each other, and love each other. Amen.