The crisis continues.
On Sunday afternoon, just yards away from where Heather Heyer was killed, rabble-rouser Jason Kessler appeared on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, spewing his verbal garbage.
He was largely drowned out by the crowd who gathered round. Police arrived and escorted him from the scene — possibly for his own protection, possibly to prevent the episode from escalating into further violence.
More violence is the last thing we need.
The offensiveness of his speech was aggravated by its timing and its location. But there was no reason to expect any display of sensitivity to the loss of life that occurred nearby.
Nor is there any reason to expect the hatemongers to retreat in the face of the universal condemnation that has emerged following this weekend’s violence.
Although words of strength and solidarity in the face of evil may not halt the haters, still they must be said. They are critical for defining who we are as a community. And they are powerfully practical in drawing us together as a community, reinforcing the steel of our common purpose in confronting this evil.
Many leaders have joined their voices to condemn the hatemongers and to sustain the cause of right-thinking. Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Mayor Mike Signer and Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy come immediately to mind as some of the most prominent. U.S. senators and representatives, state legislators and political figures have joined the chorus. But many everyday men and women have done so as well, in prayer services and vigils, in Facebook posts and letters to the editor.
These united voices have strength. We must allow ourselves to draw strength from them.
Because we are in this for the long haul. And, very soon, we will have to turn our attention to the difficult work of revising our strategies for confronting or defusing hatred, while at the same time recommitting to the protection of liberties that define our democracy. There is some danger that, in dealing with the crisis, we destroy the very thing we seek to save: our free America.
But that debate will not be enjoined here and now.
For the immediate term, we still must cope with our emotions of shock, sorrow and anger.
Anger is a very real, and understandable, component of grief. But what do we do with it? To allow anger to provoke further hatred and violence would be antithetical to the message we seek to advance.
And soon, we also must evaluate — as unemotionally as possible — the tragic, terrifying events of this past weekend. We need to determine what went wrong to permit violence to escalate to this degree. Perhaps nothing further could have been done; sometimes you do your best, and still fail. But as we move slowly beyond today’s shock, we will want those answers.
All of this will be difficult. We will need our strength and unity, our clarity and courage, in the immediate days ahead — and for the long haul.