“…White supremacists aren’t patriots, they are traitors – Americans must unite against hatred and bigotry…” Senator John McCain (12th August 2017)
The words of the late US Senator John McCain relate to the events, images and ramifications of the Charlottesville riots that took place two years ago.
Nationalism is often the last refuge to those who have, or believe they have, no other options available to them. This last resort whether real or imagined can sometimes have tragic consequences. The gruesome scenes of the Charlottesville riots on August 12th 2017 and President Trump’s response ‘condoning’ the actions of white supremacists have had a significant influence on the rise of the right globally.
Far-right groups had gathered in Charlottesville to protest the decision to bring down a monument of Confederate General Robert E Lee. Protests came in the form of extreme references to Nazi ideology. Disturbing scenes of torch carrying white supremacists chanting ‘Blood and Soil’ and the death of a peaceful protestor, Heather Heyer, run down by an enraged white supremacist, were amplified by President Trump’s response.
The US President did not denounce the actions of white supremacists, instead condemning hatred, bigotry, and violence ‘on many sides’. While he later went on to state he condemned neo-Nazis and white nationalists, his statement, in which he also referred to “very fine people on both sides”, was seen as implying a moral equivalence between white supremacists and those protesting against them. The President’s words were interpreted as a sign that he was sympathetic to white supremacist ideology. It has been argued that Trump’s failure to condemn the actions of white supremacists has led to a ‘validation’ of right-wing groups.
Trumps’ legitimization follows the pattern of an increase in racism in all parts of the world. Right-wing groups have been emboldened and are more openly demonstrating their hatred and bigotry. The preconditions for potential disaster are materializing. There are unnerving signs that present-day Europe is inching towards a repeat of past events. Rising support for far-right political parties, the slide towards authoritarianism in Poland and Hungary, and the multitude of displaced Muslim refugees moving throughout Europe adopts a familiar pattern to the catastrophe that took hold in Germany the late 1930’s.
Here in Australia there is a growing unease with the shift towards, and unthinking acceptance of right-wing ideology. Advocacy of the far-right by the US President has aided this dark movement – Nationalism is being cultivated and beginning to take root.