Lessons from Charlottesville: Don't be ruled by fear

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by Alex Link
Guest Writer

Recently, I was invited to sit down at a roundtable discussion on the topic of Charlottesville. The discussion is one that I could classify as healthy, and I had some very important takeaways from other members of the discussion. Each of us has been asked to write down our personal thoughts and what we believe is most important to take away from the events that unfolded from Charlottesville.

So what, you might be asking yourself, does Alex want us to take away from this awful event? Well, I’ll tell you.

Light will drive out darkness

Do not use the hate of others to justify your own aggressions.  Much of the problem here is everyone has become aggressive, and some understandably so. When you are being attacked, it is only natural to have an aggressive defense and retaliation.

However, doing what is natural is not always beneficial to promoting a healthy, stable society. In this case it only causes more chaos and destruction. To quote the great Martin Luther King Jr., "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that." You cannot allow your fear and hate to dictate your actions.

Flag is a symbol, not an idol

 Martin luther king jr.  -- nationalgeographic.com

Martin luther king jr.  -- nationalgeographic.com

A factor that lends itself to this aggression and fear is a poisoned nationalistic view. White nationalists view this nation’s history in the wrong light. They worship flags that should be considered traitorous and honor statues of people whose actions are not up to par with the moral character that this nation intended to produce. When one’s sense of pride lies in a flag instead of in one’s fellow countrymen, then it’s time to rethink what you believe in.  

When you criticize someone harshly for not putting their hand over their heart and removing their cap for a flag, then maybe you don’t truly understand what the flag is meant to represent. The flag is meant to be a symbol, not an idol. You can show respect and care to those who defend the country without swearing undying loyalty to a piece of cloth. No soldier’s last thought in the history of their life was, “I hope my flag’s O.K. Sure would be a shame if my flag was damaged.” Instead it’s, “I sure hope my sacrifice here paves the way for a safer future for my family and friends.” When you imbue this sort of power onto a flag or statue, it is no longer a symbol, but it is an idol. It’s something that these people, plenty of whom call themselves Christian, fail to recognize.

Rift between economic classes

Another factor in this event is a factor that lends itself to the tension between races, and that is the social rift between economic classes. Poor people are concerned for their well-being, and rightly so, for the poor have never been poorer nor the rich never richer. The rich upper class citizens use their power, wealth and influence to convince poor whites, blacks and other poor minorities to fight among each other for scraps. They tell both races that their enemy is not the rich. The rich claim that the poor citizens are stealing their jobs or using their tax money to be lazy. That is simply false. However, the fact that this claim has no truth to it does not stop people of all races from believing in it. This lie causes so much fear and animosity between the races, while lending itself quite well to those on the upper crust of society.

Both worship of nationalistic idols and the use of race as a tool by the rich, combined with countless other instances and circumstances, create a fearful environment, which never lends itself well to a productive and progressive society. When people are cornered, they feel as if committing aggressive acts is the only way they can survive.

Many people would say that minorities of this country are right to be afraid, and they are. However, as minorities and those who support them, we cannot let ourselves be ruled by our fear. We ourselves must be tolerant of the hate of others, and turn our hate for them into a desire to dissuade them from their current course of action in a civilized manner.  

We should not give in to our hate and fear. We should not stop speaking out. We need to keep talking, and keep things like Charlottesville in the spotlight. Remember, tolerance and inactivity are two different things. We must always be aware and vocal of the injustice around us.

I leave you with another quote from the great MLK Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."