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Opinion | Renée Graham

In Charlottesville, a reignited Civil War

Krystin Rines rested her head on husband Tyler’s shoulder during a vigil Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.Win McNamee/Getty Images

Remember this day, Aug. 12, 2017. This is Fort Sumter in our modern, reignited Civil War.

While President Trump cravenly condemned violence “on many sides,” it appears there was only one side plowing a car at a high rate of speed into peaceful anti-racism protesters at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. There was only one side standing up for the values that America loves to espouse. Then there was that other side, boiling in hate, locked and loaded with fire and fury, who want to reclaim as theirs alone rights they have never been denied.

One person was killed Saturday and at least 19 others injured. Again, blood has been spilled and bodies broken. Hate crimes have soared since Trump declared his candidacy, and here is yet another act of violence inspired by a presidency that even now cannot condemn white supremacy, to call it out as the abomination and scourge that it is. Former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who endorsed Trump’s candidacy, said: “We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he was going to take our country back.”

Trump has never denounced this homegrown terrorism with the crazed fervor he reserves for Islamic terrorism. For a man who has so much so say about so many things, he’s downright tongue-tied when it comes to calling out this supremacist hatred. Of course, no politician condemns his most loyal base, and these are people sustaining this sinkhole of a presidency. Hatred has always been part of this nation, but Trump flipped over the rock and out slithered racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, bigotry, and misogyny in doses that might have made Jefferson Davis cringe.


North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is not America’s most clear and present danger. Nor is ISIS our biggest terrorist threat. It’s a savage mob of white supremacists so validated by this president that they see no need to hide their faces or conceal their identities. They marched with Confederate flags and swastikas, guns slung from their shoulders and strapped to their waists, believing their champion occupies this nation’s highest office. Trump not only understands their discontent — his exploitation of it propelled him into the White House — he won’t even condemn by name a barbarism that has taken a life and threatens to consume this nation.


On April 12, 1861, Confederates fired on the Union garrison at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, effectively beginning the Civil War. Here we are again, our country cleaved in two, facing an enemy determined to make racism and white supremacy lord over this nation. This time, however, the great and tragic difference is that now there’s a leader in the White House who, in both his words and silences, props up this terrifying plunge into a bottomless abyss.

Renée Graham can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.