White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert went on CNN Sunday to reiterate his boss’s position that both sides are to blame after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia sparked violence and potentially even a murder. On Saturday, Donald Trump blamed “violence on many sides” for the weekend of chaos.
Bossert echoed Trump. “I’m sure there were good people in the groups that had various opinions on the removal or maintenance of the statue,” Bossert told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “But what they found when they showed up were groups from outside that showed up on both sides, looking for trouble, dressed in riot gear, prepared for violence.”
Setting aside this attempt to draw equivalency — yes, there were counter-protesters who engaged in violence, but none of them killed anyone, and they weren’t there to defend the notion that one race is superior to another — it’s worth focusing on Bossert’s suggestion that there were “good people” who came to Charlottesville to protest the removal of a Confederate memorial.
The weekend of violence began after white nationalist groups convened a rally in Charlottesville to protest the city’s decision to remove a statute of Robert E. Lee. Lee, a slaveowner, led a treasonous army against his own nation in order to defend the proposition that one human can own another human.
He was also known as a particularly cruel slaveowner. Lee’s slaves viewed him as “the worst man I ever see” because of his practice of breaking up slave families and hiring different family members off to different plantations.
The initial wave of protesters defending Lee’s statute surrounded a small group of counter-protests on Friday night while holding torches and chanting “you will not replace us” and “white lives matter.” Some of them threw their torches at the counter-protesters.
And, again, they came to Charlottesville to defend the image of a notorious white supremacist who is famous largely for his central role in the greatest act of treason in American history.
Now, in fairness, Bossert is hardly the first person to paint Confederate sympathizers with the brush of normalcy. The urge to reconcile the two warring sides of the nation began almost immediately after the Civil War ended, with African American rights often sacrificed on the altar of such a reconciliation.
But he should know enough about history to understand what, exactly, the pro-Confederate protesters were there to defend.