Editorial: No place for hate in America

It has been more than a week since the racism and extremism, with tragic consequences, was on display in Charlottesville, Va., when white nationalists descended on the city for a “Unite the Right” rally. The country, and Wilton, have not stopped talking about it.

As The Bulletin went to press Wednesday evening, a candlelight vigil was planned in the courtyard of Our Lady of Fatima church. The event was planned as a gathering to bring the community together in a time of national upheaval. First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice was to read the proclamation of civility adopted earlier this year and planned to say a few words. Words were also to be spoken by members of the Wilton clergy and area guests. Candles were to be lit. Refreshments were to be served to enable people to socialize and perhaps voice their feelings on this subject that has generated so much ill will.

We talk in this country about having a “conversation” about substantive issues, race relations not being the least among them. How are we to have these conversations if we do not come together as a community?

This vigil gave people a wonderful opportunity to do just that. We have done it before. In February, a Service for Interfaith Prayer and Solidarity was held in the wake of attacks on synagogues and Jewish community centers. We will likely have to do it again.

Right-wing extremism, including white nationalism and white supremacy, is on the rise, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. There are several groups dedicated to those causes right here in Connecticut.

President Trump was slow to denounce the Charlottesville mayhem, and when he did speak the day after the rally, he called out hate, bigotry and violence “on many sides,” rather than unequivocally condemning the neo-Nazis and hate-filled groups who organized the rally and marched through Charlottesville with torches.

He doubled-down on his comments a few days later and called out the counter-protesters along with the white nationalists. But there is no moral equivalency between people who hate others because of the color of their skin or religious or ethnic group and people who protest their actions.

Our president has continued his divisive rhetoric, unwilling to hear any side but his own. The stand for human rights and decency will not trickle down from the top. It must bubble up from the bottom. We are the bottom. We must make our voices for liberty and justice for all rise to the top.