This was a better week than you think for the United States

This was a better week than you think for the United States

Boston’s 40,000-strong response to a planned alt-right rally marks a new nation-wide repudiation of both the Confederacy and racism.

A large crowd of people march towards the Boston Commons to protest the Boston Free Speech Rally in Boston, MA, U.S., August 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

A large crowd of people march towards the Boston Commons to protest the Boston Free Speech Rally in Boston, MA, U.S., August 19, 2017. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

I was supposed to fly to Boston this morning. I bought a ticket, booked a hotel, and set my alarm. But I skipped my flight. I just didn’t want to spend my day with Nazis. Thankfully, thousands of other people were more intrepid than me.

Today the alt-right planned to gather on Boston Common. It was to be their counterpunch after the earlier fiasco in Charlottesville, where a grotesquerie of racists, white supremacists, and neo-fascists clashed with protesters, leading to the death of a young activist named Heather Heyer and the injury of 19 others.

In a remarkably candid press conference that will be remembered as one of the defining moments of his presidency, Donald Trump responded to Heyer’s death by angrily claiming there was blame to be found on “both sides”—among the torch-bearing Nazis chanting for a race war, and among those who gathered to oppose them.

READ MORE: It wasn’t a lone, unusual flare-up. Charlottesville really is America.

Condemnation of Trump was almost universal, from the government of Israel, to members of Trump’s advisory councils, to the leadership of the Republican Party. Even the president’s chief apologist, Newt Gingrich, disapproved. It was a unifying moment in American politics, and one that marked the first dramatic rupture between a previously prostrate GOP and their president.

The only notable people who supported the president were men like David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and a few of the more notoriously rabid members of the far-right press.

There was a voluble consensus that this was a demoralizing low point in American history. But the hand-wringing hot takes and the ominous predictions of a new civil war distracted from the real impact of the Nazi march: a sudden, unexpected, and nationwide repudiation of racism, the Confederacy, its symbols, and its heroes.

North and south of the Mason-Dixon line, mayors, legislators, and members of the general public pulled down Confederate flags, installed new plaques explaining the pro-slavery positions of southern Civil War generals, and covered up other statues—or in some cases, such as in Baltimore, removed them immediately.

RELATED: Democracy can’t be taken for granted. Charlottesville proves that.

Just a few years ago there was a national debate on whether these symbols of the Confederacy, embraced by modern white nationalists, were legitimate expressions of southern pride or racist anachronisms. Maybe because America had other things to worry about, or because a country with a black president couldn’t possible have a race problem, the issue was left unresolved.

But last week, after the president disgraced himself live on TV, the mood suddenly shifted as many Americans decided the verdict was now in—the Confederacy was not a noble defence of Southern values; it was treason.

The verdict was not unanimous. A CBS poll found that 67 per cent of Republican voters approved of the president’s Charlottesville comments, and the removal of statues is being strongly opposed by white voters across the southern states. But nationwide, the balance clearly shifted this week, and the long-fought defence of “southern pride” has become a rear-guard action.

Words and deeds: A rabbi watches the events in Charlottesville

The retreat is not an orderly one. The alt-right, abashed by the vocal bi-partisan opposition to their cause, quickly raised the flag of “free speech” and declared their real struggle is to defend history (by protecting statues of General Lee) and the First Amendment. They chose Boston Common as their battlefield.

This was an inspired place for the fight. Boston Common was cleared 400 years ago by the first settler in the area, an Anglican preacher named Blaxton who filled his cabin with books and named it “The Study.” He sold the land to the Puritans, who used it to graze cattle and hang witches. On the eve of the Revolutionary War, it was the camp for British soldiers who marched up to Concord and fired the first shots that led to American independence. And today, it was where a small band of 50 Nazis had to be escorted to safety through a crowd of 40,000 Bostonians who’d had enough of their shit.

The history of the United States, like Boston Common’s, is complicated, painful, and ugly. But, decade by decade it does bend towards justice. In spite of how it feels, this was a good week for America. In hindsight, I’m really sorry I missed it.


This was a better week than you think for the United States

  1. You wrote about it! And as a fellow human who’s had enough of this shit, I applaud you. And I applaud the people of Boston. I lived in Cambridge once and now live in the deep deep poo of Texas. Going to go get a sheet cake soon.
    Thank you.

  2. Thanks for an unbiased view of this week as seen from north of the border. Some of us were getting a bit worn down by the constant stream of idiocy coming from the White House.

  3. Awful stuff indeed. People really do need to pay attention to what is happening these days. Permits or not, we simply can’t allow things like this to continue. This kind of thing needs to have bright spotlight on it so everyone can see just what is going on. More people need to know what happened in Boston.
    Here is a link to video of the actual permit holders speaking.
    Boston Free Speech Rally

    Tsk tsk… awful stuff indeed.

  4. This has been a good week for America. I was inspired by the women’s march but since then stuff has just gotten crappier and crappier. The response in Charlottesville and Boston shows that we still live in America and not Amerika! USA!

  5. A handful of Nazis kept you grounded??? Sounds like you just didn’t want to fly to Boston. It sounds like not even one Nazi or KKK member even showed up. There’s lots of truth to the chicken little story — you should maybe re-read it.

    I had no problems in Boston this past week. It was a privilege to be in Boston to bring back a relative who just finished an internship in one of their amazing medical centres. People were engaging — there was quite a bit of life to the city.

    From what I’ve read — 27 people were arrested in Boston. But since the right were a no show — does that mean 27 people from the left were arrested? Were these the antifa agitators that the left are protecting? If would be nice if you dug up a bit more on the story Scott.

  6. Between the eloquent, stirring words of Heather Heyer’s mother at her daughter’s memorial and her repudiation of Trump, Tina Fey’s now unforgettable description of Ann Coutler as “yard sale Barbie” and the complete melt-down of Rebel Media … what started off as a truly horrible week has ended on a high note … and the actions in Boston are just icing on the cake.

  7. Time for Trump to step down and let Pence move forward executing the smart policies that got Trump elected but without all the drama. I don’t think the left leaning MSM can malign Pence-he’s pretty squeaky clean-so all of that B.S. will end too. CNN will have nothing to talk about-how nice that would be.

    • Pence isn’t squeaky-clean … he’s a far right Christian neanderthal … he’s just learned to keep his mouth shut that’s all. Far more dangerous…

  8. 90% of the violent protests in the U.S. have been by Anti-fa and Black Lives Matter. Their usual opposition has been the police trying to stop them from damaging property. Their cause is to oppose the right in general and anyone else who doesn’t agree with their alt-left views.

    • “90% of the violent protests in the U.S. have been by Anti-fa and Black Lives Matter.” .. Stats and evidence please … from a reputable source … not Breitbart fake news.

      • Maybe this will help you understand the Anti-fa wing nuts better. They talk about going against white supremacists ( a noble cause) but they are anti the right, anti-police, anti-government and anti anything that doesn’t fit their alt-left, anarchist bent. The data re the violence they’ve been involved in since Trump’s election (usually with BLM in tow) was reported by the BBC.

      • Right because the articles from left leaning media like Think Progress and Upworthy are sooooo reliable.

        • ????????????? That video was from leftist CNN. I was surprised they developed it!!

          • My reply was to Mellor — who I guess is in the habit of sharing his/her less than sophisticated reading habits.

            Your right — the Clinton New Network does occasionally produce some quote worthy material.

  9. 63 shootings, eight deaths in Chicago last weekend.